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Q&A

Jay Roorbach

Published May 24, 2016

By MICHAEL ANDREI

Jay Roorbach

For Jay Roorbach, emergency preparedness is more than a good idea. As UB’s new senior emergency planning coordinator, Roorbach’s responsibilities include ensuring the university is prepared to respond to any given situation and minimizing disruption to campus services, classes and research.

Before being named to his position at UB, Roorbach was facility safety manager for PVS Chemical Solutions in South Buffalo. Prior to that, he spent seven years as the manager of corporate emergency management for Kaleida Health, where he oversaw emergency management and overall preparedness programs.

A certified U.S. Army instructor and hazardous materials technician, Roorbach served with the Michigan State Police Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in Washington, D.C. He is a 13-year veteran of the U.S. Army Chemical Corps.

What is emergency management and how does it apply in a university setting?

JR: Emergency management focuses on creating plans and procedures that reduce vulnerability to sudden, unexpected situations, hazards and technological and natural disasters. An emergency management plan outlines directives and provides a framework for managing major emergencies that may threaten the health and safety of the campus community or disrupt its activities. An effective emergency plan is comprehensive and identifies departments and individuals that are directly responsible for emergency response and critical support services. It also provides management and structure for coordinating and deploying resources to establish a resilient organization and ensure everyone is prepared.

Who do you work with at UB?

JR: My focus is creating a comprehensive plan for the university and I work closely with members of the administration, staff, faculty and students from every school, department and location within the UB community. Many other individuals and campus groups engage in planning at different levels within our organization, and it is important to ensure the consistency of each of those plans as well. During an emergency, I establish and maintain liaisons with public safety and emergency response organizations that provide support to UB.

After a significant event we assemble a team of the people who were involved to collect lessons learned and discuss any issues encountered or mistakes that were made during the event. My role is similar to the conductor of an orchestra: I can wave a baton and everything sounds good, but I rely on leaders within our organization to make good decisions for people, facilities and anything else under their control. My goal is to provide good tools and guidance, and make the plan more successful, provide additional direction and guidance for specific operations and, hopefully, make everyone’s jobs a little bit easier.

What are some scenarios members of the university community should be most prepared for?

JR: That is a difficult answer to give. The assessments of existing hazards or vulnerabilities depend on many different variables. However, with an open and welcoming campus culture, the potential for increased vulnerability at UB also exists. But the awareness of university community members and the campus-wide alert system we have in place are focused on preventing those types of acts from taking place. As far as situations that cannot be controlled, obviously severe winter weather is probably the most likely scenario that has the potential to disrupt operations at UB.

What are some of the programs you are working on to enhance the preparedness of the university?

JR: UB’s emergency management plan will be complemented by a comprehensive business continuity plan, a comprehensive program to see us through the crisis and assist in restoring and maintaining operations across the university.

There will be four components of this initiative, and tools are being developed that will be made available to all stakeholders. The components are:

  • Continuity of information technology: Detailed and effective plans are in place to ensure the resilience of our technology platform, and the Office of the CIO is leading an effort to continue regular evaluations and assessments.
  • Continuity of business operations: This includes ensuring the resilience of the services and administrative functions of the university. Through this component, UB emergency management will work in collaboration with the UB Office of Finance and Administration to ensure continuity of business operations throughout the university.
  • Continuity of instruction: UB Emergency Management is developing a self-assessment template to assist schools within UB with planning for continuing instruction during and after a disruption. This effort will be consistent with the UB 2020 Strategic Plan.
  • Continuity of research: The goal of this component is ensuring our researchers and faculty can continue their efforts during and after a disruption.

UB Emergency Management also is leading an effort to revise the current emergency plan into a comprehensive, all-inclusive emergency preparation, communications and response plan for the entire university. This plan will establish a framework for a systematic, coordinated and effective emergency response, from prevention through response to long-term recovery, each will be addressed in this plan. Additionally, we are organizing an operational group to meet during emergencies to manage university resources and assist those parts of our organization with unique needs.

What is the best way to get information during an emergency?

JR: We will notify the university community through the UB Alert text message platform. We strongly encourage all students, faculty and staff to register and select the text option, along with any other methods they feel might be beneficial to receive. We also strive to post information to UB websites, use UB provided email addresses, a variety of social media platforms, established telephone hotline numbers and television and radio messages. Many other parts of our organization will most likely provide information to their stakeholders during an emergency. It is very important for everyone to take any emergency information seriously and not place themselves in harm’s way. For most people receiving this type of information, the appropriate response will be to stay away from affected facilities or areas.

What if people have questions or unique experience with emergency management and would like to get involved?

JR: I welcome any conversations with individuals or departments at UB. Please email me. A key principle of emergency management is that the more everyone is aware of what to expect and do during an emergency, the less the impact there tends to be on an organization. Most emergencies are dynamic situations, and preparedness and response efforts require a good amount of flexibility. Anyone who can assist with providing direction in those situations definitely helps. Individuals bringing unique experience may be able to coordinate efforts within their work environment that will be consistent with the larger overall planning effort. We have a wealth of resources that can be provided to assist with any issues identified.

READER COMMENT

From the proud parents, great article.  UB is lucky to have him.

 

James and Joann Roorbach