Flood Offers Unexpected Test of Emergency Plan

With Cedar Rapids inundated with 31 feet of flood water on June 12, it was difficult — if not impossible — to view the disaster as a learning experience. Staying true to its roots as an educational institution, in the weeks following the disaster Mount Mercy staff, faculty, and administration viewed the unfortunate situation as an extended emergency planning exercise.

Mount Mercy finalized its disaster preparedness plan a few months before the flood, which included contingency plans for natural disasters like flooding and tornadoes. Although the Mount Mercy campus was not directly impacted by the flood waters, Mount Mercy’s administration immediately enacted its emergency management plan to handle the impending crisis.

For 11 days the Mount Mercy campus was closed to the public and classes were suspended, but more than 100 Mount Mercy staff, faculty, and students volunteered 3,600 hours to provide visible and behind the scenes support services for the Air and Army National Guard, Red Cross, and law enforcement groups staying on campus. Mount Mercy volunteers were scheduled in shifts on campus 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to offer technical and logistical support.

Members of the emergency management team instituted twice daily briefings during the disaster and also created an emergency web site that offered updates on classes and campus activities. Vice President for Finance and Business Operations Barbara Parks Pooley served as the incident commander. The emergency management team also accepted contributions to provide essential support to Mount Mercy students, faculty, and staff impacted by the flooding. To date, the Flood Relief Fund has distributed $8,883 to 14 campus community members and their families.

“This crisis was an extraordinary — although unwelcome — opportunity to put our campus emergency plan into practice,” Pooley says. “We implemented our plan with flying colors, and afterward had the opportunity to debrief and to review our successes and challenges during that hectic 11-day period.”

Additionally, in the days and weeks following the water’s surge, Mount Mercy opened its campus facilities to area businesses displaced by flooding. Mount Mercy, partnering with Involta, LLC, made Basile Hall available for use by displaced businesses.

“Months before the flood, Mount Mercy worked with Involta to implement plans and processes to help area businesses recover from disasters of any kind,” says Pooley. “An ethic of community service is a key component of the education we strive to provide, and this service was consistent with that ethic. Working with Involta and housing local businesses was not a diversion of our mission.”

One of the businesses that sought refuge in Basile Hall was White & Johnson, PC, whose law offices were located downtown. Tim White, president of White & Johnson, PC, also serves as a member of the Mount Mercy Board of Trustees. “I can’t begin to thank the administration of Mount Mercy for the support they gave my law firm during this recent disaster,” says White. “Not only did the College immediately provide us with wonderful and comfortable space, but it provided communication access so necessary to our business. Through this joint effort we were up and running in a matter of hours.”