Touro College: A Look At Emergency Preparedness
To hear Shoshana Yehudah, Director of Emergency Preparedness at Touro College, tell the story of how she “fell” into the field of emergency management is one part comedy and one part fairy tale. After working as an Assistant to the Senior Vice President for more than 10 years, Shoshana asked for an office when a new senior vice president was hired in 2008. His response, “You need a title to have an office. We need a Director of Emergency Preparedness.” And so, Shoshana was given an office, a title, and the task of starting Touro’s Department of Emergency Preparedness.
With no prior experience in emergency management, Shoshana was on a mission to educate herself on the responsibilities that her new title brought. In addition to a tremendous amount of reading, one of her first steps was to attend a National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) conference where she fatefully attended a presentation by Steven J. Healy, co-founder and managing partner of Margolis Healy. Healy was presenting on campus safety and emergency preparedness. When he asked the audience if any did not have an emergency operations plan, Shoshana meekly raised her hand. When he later asked if anyone did not have a threat assessment team, Shoshana meekly raised her hand again. Healy approached her afterwards, offered his assistance, and insisted he and his partner, Gary Margolis, could help her and Touro get up to speed.
Shoshana recalls, “It was overwhelming. Gary called and I asked, ‘What do I need to be planning?’ He told me to get our senior management together and he would go over why Touro needed Margolis Healy’s help.” The first thing Margolis Healy worked on with Shoshana was a comprehensive emergency operations plan. Senior management’s response? “It’s too long. Cut it down, Shoshana.”
Rather than cutting it down, it made sense to tackle it in phases, or pieces at a time. Shoshana worked with Margolis Healy to implement the plan and conduct training programs such as crisis communications, use of the Incident Command System, and low-stress tabletop to complex functional exercises with participation from a fully staffed emergency operations center and senior management. The College also worked with Margolis Healy to establish a multi-modal mass notification system on campus. She has created a mission and vision statement, developed a quarterly newsletter from her department, and teaches college students, faculty and staff how to personalize emergency preparedness.
Over time, Shoshana and her department transitioned from working with Gary and Steven to working with Senior Director of Security and Emergency Management Services Daniel R. Pascale and his team of emergency managers. How did this transition work for Shoshana? She jokingly describes them as “her big brothers.”
Working with Margolis Healy for more than six years has transformed Touro College from an institution that completely lacked emergency preparedness to a college with a department recognized in December 2014 by the NYC Emergency Management for their outstanding work. “Touro is a safer place today, but I focus on what we have yet to accomplish,” says Shoshana. “ I want to leave this institution in good shape,” when she decides it’s time to retire or do something else, but no one sees that happening for some time and Touro is thankful for that.