Wanted: Your ideas for creating a disaster-resistant UW-Madison

A planning team consisting of university staff and consultants are in the middle of a two-year FEMA funded grant to develop a Disaster Resistant University (DRU) plan for the Madison campus and outlying properties. The goal of this plan is to help mitigate and minimize potential damage from natural, technological or political hazards or disasters.

University community members, including faculty, staff and students, are invited to attend a meeting on Tuesday, January 31st to learn more about the UW-Madison DRU plan and provide input on identifying hazards and mitigation ideas important to you. The meeting will be held from 4–6 p.m. in room 240 Steenbock Library.

The DRU Plan will facilitate cooperation between Federal, state, and UW Madison authorities as well as enhance a planning network to better enable the UW Madison to articulate accurate needs for mitigation.  The UW Madison DRU Plan will also assure eligibility for future funding opportunities through The Department of Homeland Security – Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (DHS/FEMA) and Wisconsin Emergency Management Agency (WEMA) hazard mitigation grant programs.

DRU Steering committee

The DRU steering committee consists of university representatives including Campus Police, Land Information and Computer Graphics Facility (LICGF) Facilities Planning and Management (FPM) University Housing, Ag Research Stations, UW Hospital & Clinics, Risk Management, the City of Madison, Wisconsin Department of Administration, and two consultants, Integrated Solutions Consulting (ISC) and the Polis Center at the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI).

The DRU Planning Process

The DRU Planning Process consists of four steps or phases: Hazard identification, risk assessment, mitigation strategies and FEMA plan approval

Hazards Identification. The planning team researched historical records, existing mitigation plans for Dane County and the State, and received input from hazard specialists to identify the following possible hazards. University community members will also have an opportunity to identify perceived threats at the public meeting on January 31st.

  • Natural hazards: Tornado, flood, Severe storm/lightning, severe temp, subsidence, disease, drought
  • Technological: Hazardous materials release, structural fire/failure, critical infrastructure incident, utility failure, water/wastewater
  • Political: Terrorism, civil disturbance

Risk Assessment. The DRU plan requires assessing the risks from the identified hazards to university property, operations and safety of humans. Staff at the LICGF center on campus are integrating spatial information and databases from different sources, including campus structures, demographics and hazard locations on campus, using geographic information systems (GIS). These GIS layers are helping the planning team model potential disaster scenarios and estimate risks.

Here’s an example of a simulated chemical spill, in which the technology helps identify which buildings would potentially need evacuating and how many people are affected in the plume area.

Simulated hazardous material spill on campus using Aloha GIS modeling software.


Mitigation Goals and Strategies. The UW Madison DRU Committee developed preliminary Mitigation Goals to identify the expectations of the DRU Plan.  The mitigation plan’s goals are broad statements that describe the principles that will guide the mitigation actions.  These goals are supported by objectives which are targeted statements that define strategies and implementation procedures to attain the mitigation plan’s goals. Mitigation strategies will be developed by the DRU Committee on January 31st prior to the public meeting. These strategies will be available for the public to review and comment on during the 4-6pm public meeting.

  • Goal #1: Increase public understanding of emergency management and build support for hazard mitigation.
  • Goal #2: Develop, promote, and integrate mitigation actions.
  • Goal #3:  Continue to improve and enhance UW Madison’s all-hazard preparedness program.
  • Goal #4: Increase the economic stability, core values, and quality of life of UW Madison.

Plan approval. The DRU plan will be submitted to FEMA before the end of the year and when approved, will be adopted by UW Madison. After the initial plan is approved FEMA will require updates to the plan every five years.

For more information

Please visit our website, or contact Tom McClintock, Outreach Program Manager at UW LICGF at 608-263-0009, for more information.