Colonel readies Leeds for any disaster

November 14, 1997

IF AN aircraft crashed into the campus of Leeds University, pro chancellor Colonel Alan Roberts would not be phased. His contingency plan for such an eventuality would swing into action, and business would continue as usual.

He has also worked out a strategy to cope with minor earthquakes. And he knows what to do if a gas explosion wipes out the university pay roll.

It is not that he is a pessimist. It is sound military practice, he says, to prepare for the worst.

So what would happen if a fire alarm went off in the middle of an exam?

How would you stop the students discussing the questions?

Rescheduling with a new paper may not be an option: for one thing, overseas students could have already booked their flights home.

"Universities have a lot of responsibilities and I am simply focussing people's minds on them," said Colonel Roberts, who is chairman of the council at Leeds.

As chairman of the university's disaster planning task force, he has asked all departments to consider a range of calamities from rats gnawing through computer cables to major floods or fires.

The aim is to coordinate the university's response to unpredictable events to minimise disruption to its core business.

Law lecturer Neil Stanley has been appointed business continuity project manager to draw up detailed plans.

"Business continuity planning is not just about major events and it is not solely a management responsibility," Mr Stanley said.

"It is also ultimately concerned with any incident which has the capacity to disrupt the functioning of the university."

Using the dictum "Better safe than sorry", the task force is modelling its disaster planning on the best military organisations that never let anything take them by surprise.

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