The largest college in the country is boarded up and has closed its doors.

A few days ago, a college I last visited less than a year ago, closed its doors to students and sent its staff home.

Dramatic news isn’t it. Why hasn’t this news hit our national media? Why isn’t the education press bringing this news to us?

Simple. The college, its 6500 staff and c165,000 students is in Miami. The reason it closed its doors was Hurricane Irma.

So the reason it hasn’t hit the UK news is that it is thousands of miles away. But that doesn’t mean we can ignore what has happened in Miami and across the whole of Florida.

UK Provider Disaster Preparation

The closure of Miami Dade College is a salutary lesson to us all. They were prepared for this hurricane. They get hurricanes every year and, although this one is the worse in living memory, it was just a matter of time before it came.

Knowing this is a huge advantage because it means they can plan for disaster. In the UK we are not so well prepared simply because such disasters are not so common or even predictable as a Florida hurricane.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t prepare. Although not as predictable as annual hurricanes, local council emergency officers produce Civil Protection and Emergency Plans to cover contingencies as diverse as terrorism, flooding, fire, chemical leaks, aircraft crashes and more. Very few incidents develop into "major incidents" which involve councils in a full-scale implementation of their emergency plans. But it does happen.

But whether minor incidents or full scale emergencies, it seems to me that providers should meet with their councils and have plans in place should an emergency of any type threaten staff or students, or if their premises might be needed to shelter the local community.  

Clearly the role of providers focuses on education and training and we would not want to dwell on potential disasters. But we have a duty of care to staff and students, so it is incumbent upon us to give due consideration to disaster preparedness.

This brings me to some pertinent questions. When did you last consider disaster planning? Have you discussed this with your local council emergency planning officer? Do key staff know their role should such an emergency occur?

Most UK providers have a snow plan in place and can soon get information out to local radio, social media and on their website, should heavy snowfall mean temporarily closing the gates. And this is a good starting point for any disaster plan.  It’s far from a comprehensive disaster plan but every plan must start somewhere.

With help from the council the process of disaster planning needs to be through, but needn’t be all consuming. Several departments will need to be involved, from estates to marketing.

When Will Miami Dade College Reopen?

As I write it isn’t clear when MDC will reopen. It looks like it will not be until next Monday at the earliest, but updates are occurring on a regular basis. The website and Facebook are sending out updates, as below, on a regular basis.  

Tuesday, September 12, 2017 11:34 PM
MDC remains closed until further notice. Normal operations are not expected any sooner than Monday, Sept. 18. However, ALL essential personnel are to report to their respective campuses at 8 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 13, and for the remainder of the week. If essential employees have not been in contact with their supervisors, they should follow up immediately for additional instructions. Please continue checking the MDC Hotline, the MDC Employee Hotline, social media and the news for the latest regarding the status of classes and operations.


Knowing MDC I’m sure that the clean-up will run smoothly and that classes will resume as soon as it is safe for students and staff to return.

I’m sure you’ll share my sentiments when I wish them well.  


About Stefan Drew: FHE Marketing Consultant Stefan Drew was previously director of marketing at two FHE colleges and for over a decade has consulted with colleges, universities and private providers throughout the UK, Europe and the US. LinkedIn

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