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How a Large University Aced Commencement Weekend with WebEOC

Every May, Liberty University’s three-day commencement weekend is a time of pride and celebration. But the sheer size of the event—coupled with the lack of a unified incident command system—meant that the campus Emergency Management Department lacked sufficient situational awareness and frequently ran into difficulties managing resources and coordinating with stakeholders. In Juvare’s WebEOC platform, Liberty University has found a preparedness and response solution that can be trusted to help keep students, faculty, staff, and visitors safe.

The Challenge of Commencement Weekend

Liberty University is a distinctly Christian university, one of the largest private nonprofit universities in the nation, and the largest university in Virginia. Over 15,000 students attend classes on campus, and over 119,000 are enrolled in the online program. Located in Lynchburg, Virginia, at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Liberty’s campus covers more than 7,000 rolling acres and includes the facilities for the university’s 15 colleges and schools as well as a 25,000-seat football stadium.
Commencement at Liberty is a time of joy and fulfillment, but the logistical challenge can be daunting. Close to 60,000 people come for three days of celebration, with over 25 graduation ceremonies held in multiple locations over the course of the event. In addition, various non-graduation activities take place on campus at the same time.
In the past, ensuring that commencement went smoothly was a major challenge for Liberty’s Emergency Management Department. The difficulties of providing for the safety of a large influx of people were magnified by the university’s lack of a comprehensive event management platform. The entire effort was handled through a patchwork system made up of Microsoft Teams, Excel spreadsheets, text messages, and emails.

Discovering the Versatility of WebEOC

Change arrived when the university discovered that WebEOC—the world’s leading preparedness and response platform—was not only suitable for use during emergencies. Liberty recognized that the flexible workflows that have made WebEOC the solution of choice for over 600 emergency management agencies and 50 U.S. federal agencies are ideally suited to helping an institution of higher learning coordinate a planned campus event.
In 2023, Liberty introduced WebEOC as a comprehensive solution for managing commencement weekend. The Emergency Management Department used the platform to deploy resources, collaborate with government agencies, and create a unified real-time operating picture.
In a recent Juvare-sponsored forum for WebEOC education clients, Tyler Edwards, an emergency management planner at Liberty, reflected on his school’s experience with the platform. “I think it worked out really well,” he said.

WebEOC Boards in Action

Edwards, who served as commencement logistics chief, focused his assessment on WebEOC Boards, the built-in data and process workflows that provide users at-a-glance situational awareness and allow them to coordinate with other users and make critical decisions.
He said the university used three Boards during the event: the Requests/Inventory/Deployments (RID) Board, the Incident Action Plan (IAP) Builder, and the Event Reporting Board.
The RID Board helped Liberty’s Emergency Management Department track the distribution of resources ranging from radios and drones to pedestrian barricades and bottled water.
While planning for the event, Edwards used the RID Board to create an inventory of available resources. As resources were deployed during commencement, the Board allowed him to track their location, quantity, and status accurately and efficiently in real time. “We were in the process of integrating new radios and replacing old ones, so there were a lot of radios going in and out of the EOC and out into the field. This is how I kept track of that,” he said.
The department also made extensive use of the IAP Builder. It posted an Incident Action Plan for each operational period, with each plan comprising several Incident Command System (ICS) forms. These included “ICS 201: Incident Briefing,” which featured a campus map, “ICS 202: Incident Objectives,” and “ICS 204: Assignment List,” which identified the campus police department officers who were on duty, recorded the locations of police traffic posts, and provided contact information for City of Lynchburg fire and medical units. Other forms were dedicated to first aid and hydration tents, the radio communications plan, and the medical plan, which listed the locations of the nearest hospitals and their trauma-center levels.
Using the IAP Board improved information sharing and operational coordination across all aspects of the weekend, including the university’s first-ever commencement fireworks display.
The third Board that played a major role supporting the department’s coordination efforts was Event Reporting. “We used the Event Reporting Board heavily,” said Edwards. “Everybody in the EOC was given access to utilize this, and we ended up with 23 pages of reports.”
Most events were medical calls, a small number of which were classified as major. “This is what we’ll use for our 214,” Edwards added, referring to the “ICS 214: Activity Log” form. “When we submit these for approval, we’ll attach the Significant Events log at the end as a PDF, and that will be our 214.”

Liberty Looks Ahead

Using WebEOC to help manage the 2023 commencement weekend resulted in numerous benefits for Liberty’s Emergency Management Department. These ranged from enhanced preplanning and resource tracking to improved operational coordination, period management, and situational awareness. Together, they contributed to the success of this very special event while ensuring the safety of the entire Liberty community. As the university leverages more of WebEOC’s robust functionalities, the list of benefits can only be expected to grow.
The success of Liberty’s WebEOC implementation has spurred plans to onboard more members of the Emergency Management Department and expand the platform’s role in both coordinating special events and performing day-to-day activities over the next year. The department is particularly interested in exploring WebEOC’s resource request capabilities and Sign-In/Sign-Out Board, said Edwards.

Rising Higher with WebEOC

Liberty University’s experience makes it clear: WebEOC can help educational institutions amplify their capacity for managing events of all types—from emergencies to commencements, parent weekends to homecomings, game days to every day.

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