New College culture fosters a certain “je ne sais quoi” and nonchalance concerning the spread of germs, but if an epidemic did sweep across campus, the college is prepared with a battle plan.
NCF has a 45 page Emergency Operations Plan that broadly outlines how it would deal with a crisis. This plan is displayed on the NCF website and is spear-headed by an Emergency Response Team.
Ph.D. and Program Director of the Counseling and Wellness Center, Anne E. Fisher, said that if an epidemic hit campus, members of the Team would first educate students about the sickness and precautions to take to avoid being afflicted by it. Associate Director of Student Affairs Donita Pace said, “When we thought that the campus might be threatened by bird-flu or H1N1, we did a lot of educational things. We installed the hand sanitizers and made sure that the janitors were extra diligent in cleaning the surfaces of common areas.” Resident Advisors are also helpful in telling students how to avoid sickness — in the past they have posted up flyers with guidelines and graphics to teach students how to sneeze without spreading germs.
Secondly, the team would have infected students visit the Counseling and Wellness Center to get diagnosed officially. The health center would then contact the Sarasota City Health department for further guidance and protocol on how to deal with the outbreak. Fisher says that if the sickness spread to enough students the college would be shut down and students sent home.
There is no ideal place to quarantine students, though the Emergency Response Team briefly brainstormed about housing infected students in the fitness center if an epidemic did strike. The fitness center is easily accessible from the outside and has lockers, bathrooms and shower facilities. Without nurses or med students to tend to the sick quarantining them is hapless. It is more sensible to send students to Sarasota Memorial Hospital, which has the capacity to effectively isolate the sick.
The ventilation of IM Pei dorms poses another problem because it is shared and air-borne diseases could easily spread from one dorm room to many. Pace said, “We count on the RAs to check in and make sure that their communities are okay” — a service particularly crucial for Pei dorm RAs. An advantage to NCF’s student housing is that save for B dorm, the dorms don’t have a shared bathroom facility, which could be a breading ground for germs and infection.
NCF works with other Florida state universities in developing its plans for responding to an epidemic outbreak on campus. It uses their research and breadth of knowledge in adapting their plans to NCF’s small size and community. Bigger universities have a larger emergency response staff and the ability to research potential dangers in depth. Fisher said, “It’s kinda cool that we can work together. The other state universities have been very generous and helpful.”
Dr. Fisher urges students to recognize that illness can be contagious and encourages them to wash their hands often, to wash dishes with hot soapy water and to launder sheets with hot water. Though using hot water to do laundry isn’t environmentally conscious, Fisher urges that it kills germs and that students should be first and foremost concerned about their health.
If students are worried about an epidemic hitting NCF, they should have their own plan in mind and figure out how they will get off campus. They should communicate this plan with their parents or have a friend’s house to go to who lives off campus.