- Associated Press - Thursday, May 25, 2017

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - The University of Idaho has identified 14 recommendations to improve safety and emergency response policies following an explosion in a school parking lot that injured four students, according to a review released Thursday.

In April, an explosion occurred when students gathered to test a fuel system for an experimental rocket. The device exploded after the fuel was ignited at the lot outside the northern Idaho university’s steam plant.

A faculty adviser to the Northwest Organization of Rocket Engineers club was with the students at the time of the explosion. The club, which was formed at the beginning of the year, is made up of students and faculty who design and test rockets.

According to the report, the university will revise the role of club advisers that includes implementing mandatory risk training. Furthermore, the university will now keep a list of all student clubs and identify the ones that participate in events that can cause physical harm.

The university will also develop a “fail safe” methodology to ensure emergency alerts are issued timely across campus. Currently, 17 percent of the approximately 15,000 members enrolled in the university’s alert system have registered their mobile phones. The report recommended finding ways to get more students and faculty’s contact information in the system.

During the night of the explosion, the report said that the alert message system was “significantly delayed” because it went out nearly an hour after the incident had already happened. The report was also critical of the original message’s vague content, including that it just said an explosion had occurred on campus and people should avoid the area.

“The key part of the report is the need to get information out more quickly,” said Dan Ewart, the university’s vice president of infrastructure - which includes public safety. “We are making some changes to protect the safety of our students, faculty and community.”

For example, the report noted that several members of the university president’s cabinet and emergency response team weren’t immediately notified of the explosion. That’s because the university just sent out an email around 10 p.m. to round up the key officials and not everyone checked their email that late at night. The university’s emergency response plan now includes multiples ways to notify the leadership team.

Ewart added that the report was not meant to assign blame or be used to discipline involved in the explosion. Instead, the university hopes it will minimize the risk of a similar situation in the future.

The students, who have not been identified, have recovered and are still enrolled at the school, Ewart said.


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