This is part two in a series recognizing faculty and staff who are adapting to new ways of working, as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. In this update, we share the experiences of those who are providing essential support in health, safety, and security on UBC Okanagan (UBCO) and UBC Vancouver (UBCV) campuses.
Staying safe is everyone’s responsibility. But it’s also a full-time job for those in UBCV Safety and Risk Services and UBCO Health, Safety and Environment. On any given day, you’ll find members of their teams out on campus, providing essential support to the UBC community.
Departments on both campuses work across a range of specialities, such as occupational hygiene, biological, chemical and radioisotope safety, environmental protection and building security systems. One of their many responsibilities also includes emergency planning and preparing for situations like earthquakes, wildfires, and pandemics.
So, when the situation with COVID-19 began to unfold, members of their emergency management teams immediately switched into response mode. One of their first tasks was to mobilize key decision makers and subject matter experts from across the university.
It’s hard to bring people together when you have to physically distance
In Vancouver, the emergency management team enacted the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) — a unit that would lead the coordination of UBCV’s central response to COVID-19 on campus. The EOC helps ensure that decisions can be made quickly and efficiently. Processes that would normally take weeks to finalize can be mapped out and agreed in record time.
The EOC team needed a workspace where they could share information, coordinate central planning initiatives and set priorities. The challenge was setting it up in a way that allowed everyone to maintain a physical distance of at least two metres at all times.
“We managed to convert an existing learning lab into a collaborative workspace with 15 separate dynamic video conference calling stations,” explains Hailey Maxwell, Advisor in UBCV’s Emergency Management team. “This involved running new network cabling for audio and video and setting up webcams and microphones — something that Network and AV Services were able to do in record time.”
“We have over 100 people involved in the EOC,” explains Hailey. “It’s been incredible. I’ve been keeping a list of everyone I need to thank. I’m truly grateful to all those who have helped coordinate our response over the last few weeks.”
Coordinating UBC’s response to COVID-19 has been a team effort
The UBCO Health, Safety and Environment team have been coordinating their response through the Infectious Disease and Pandemic Planning Committee. They follow similar practices as UBCV. Both teams have been in regular communication with each other to share resources and learnings.
One of the first priorities both teams had to focus on was coordinating Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) on campus. Teams had to work fast to come up with new processes for dealing with the increase in demand, supply and distribution.
“We had to quickly find out what PPE people had across the campus to ensure we had accurate inventory and supplies,” explains Adrian Hingston, Associate Director, UBCO Risk Management Services. “It’s been a challenge for everyone. But I’ve been really impressed with the way people have rolled up their sleeves to help out.”
Physical distancing can be a bit easier when you work outside
For both UBCO and UBCV Security, the work hasn’t slowed down since the COVID-19 outbreak — but it has changed. Teams have been taking additional measures as they go about their work. For example, Acting Associate Director of UBCV Campus Security Ali Mojdehi has been focusing on scaling up patrols and identifying potentially insecure buildings.
“We’ve been making use of PPE,” explains Troy Campbell, Associate Director, UBCO Campus Security. “We’ve also been taking the opportunity to remind students on campus about the importance of physical distancing — providing education and handing out leaflets where necessary.”
Troy and his team maintain all security systems and controls on campus, such as, security patrols, first aid/medical response, fire panels, critical building systems, intruder alarms and CCTV.
“Less people on campus does give our security team the opportunity to maintain physical distancing as they go about their work,” explains Troy. “As the weather has improved, we’ve also been taking the opportunity to do some of our group briefings outside.”
We’ve got experts on hand to help prevent the spread of COVID-19
Janet Hankins, Biological & Radiation Safety Advisor and Paul Gill, Manager, Health & Safety, joined the UBCV EOC back in March. They were both brought in to lead the infection and prevention working control group in Vancouver.
“I work closely with research groups, consulting on how to incorporate safety into operational procedures,” explains Janet. “I also work with Paul, who manages health and safety for the Faculty of Medicine.”
Janet and Paul have been using their knowledge and expertise to prevent people from running into situations of elevated infectious risk. This has involved working with teams to develop hazard assessments, implement training, respond to questions, and close the feedback loop. They encourage faculties and departments to contact them for consultation.
“We’ve been able to talk to staff about disease transmission and dispel some of the myths,” says Paul. “It’s given us the opportunity to work with people in Supply Management, Building Operations, Student Housing & Community Services, IT and Campus Security that we don’t often get to meet. They’re doing an amazing job and we’d like to say a massive thank you to them all.”
We’ve been able to talk to staff about disease transmission and dispel some of the myths. It’s given us the opportunity to work with people in Supply Management, Building Operations, Student Housing & Community Services, IT and Campus Security that we don’t often get to meet. They’re doing an amazing job and we’d like to say a massive thank you to them all.Paul Gill