SAU Buzz

How does SAU handle accidents and emergencies?

by Ashlynn Maczko
Posted on Oct 25, 2018

On Sept. 26, Tim Cook, an outside contractor working at St. Ambrose University, lost his life in a fatal accident in Galvin Fine Arts Center, leaving many students, faculty and staff with questions and concerns in the days following the accident.


Even now, a full month later, not much information has been made available due to the privacy of Cook’s family and the ongoing investigation into the incident.


“First and foremost, we want to make sure that there is no risk that is ongoing to anybody,” Paul Koch, provost and vice-president of academic affairs said. “We want to ensure the health and safety of people.”


Immediately after an accident or emergency occurs on campus, the first concern is getting care to those directly involved and injured. Robert Christopher, the director of security at St. Ambrose, explained that oftentimes this would entail calling 911 first and then contacting campus security.


After those who were injured are taken care of by emergency medical services, the police will begin an investigation and take over control of the accident scene, and St. Ambrose will pull together an Emergency Operations Center.


“The first thing we do is determine whether we need to pull together what we refer to as the Emergency Operations Center (EOC),” Koch said. “In this case we determined that it was necessary to do so, not just because the accident occurred, but because there was a death.”


The EOC includes the cabinet, vice-presidents, communications and marketing, security and other key individuals from across campus who have specialized knowledge.


The EOC analyzes what immediate information they have available and looks at how to help individuals who have been impacted by the situation. They also take into consideration if campus or building closures need to be made short-term while the investigation process begins.


“We’re going to figure out what we think our students and our community need next, and get ready to make that happen,” Christopher explained.


On Sept. 26, this included offering counseling and campus ministry services to faculty, staff, and students who were in the building or arrived to the accident shortly after it occurred.


“In the notice that we sent to faculty and staff, we asked them for their ongoing understanding and support of students who may have been impacted,” Koch explained. “And then, when necessary, we also bring in people from off campus to help.”


Christopher explained that the EOC is more of a formalized way to handle emergencies, which helps ensure that no steps get missed in the process.


“Any time we’ve had any form of accident, they are always going to be reviewed with regards to can we make things better? Are there things that we need to do differently?” Christopher said. “That will be consistent across the board, but I can tell you that that is a part of our process.”


In regards to untimely deaths on campus, Christopher explained that in his 15 years here, there has not been a workplace accident resulting in a fatality, but there have been other cases of students dying from illnesses or being involved in fatal car accidents, and in all cases, the EOC is utilized.


Christopher revealed that it could be weeks to months before the investigation into Cook’s death is closed.


“I can give you the process, but it can never overshadow that someone is not here anymore, that someone passed away, and that’s where a lot of our thoughts go to and a lot of our energy,” Christopher said. “We will do what we need to do professionally, but we never remove the moment of taking a minute to pray for family and friends.”