Document Type


Publication Date



Since its emergence in 2000, the Disaster Resistant Universities (DRU) concept has been influential in assisting universities understand and prepare for the risks of natural and man-made disasters. Although mostly an American initiative to date, most of the details of the concept are applicable beyond American borders. In recent years, a number of Canadian universities have been re-evaluating their disaster preparedness and management plans, in part due to greater awareness of the need for disaster preparation brought on by the DRU concept.

This research examines the state of disaster preparedness in two Canadian universities: the University of Waterloo (UW) and Wilfred Laurier University (WLU), using the DRU concept as a method of evaluation. Both universities are important research centers, and combined, have a student population of approximately 55,000. They are located in the southern Ontario city of Waterloo approximately one kilometre apart. Because of the geographic location of these institutions, the most likely natural hazards are winter blizzards, severe summer storms (lighting, high winds, hail and tornados), floods and disease outbreaks. Possible human-caused disasters include fire, transportation accidents, structural collapse and violence/disturbances.

For this study, the researchers designed and applied a DRU best practices evaluation framework to the disaster management plans of both case study Universities. The framework was developed by consulting key DRU documents, the disaster management plan of the Region of Waterloo, and other academic/applied sources. The research was initiated in September 2012, and will conclude in February 2013 so final results are not yet available, however, preliminary results suggest that hazard preparedness has been focused on winter disasters and disease outbreaks (e.g. influenza) at both universities, with limited attention allotted to the assessment and implementation of a plan to mitigate the impacts of remaining potential hazards. Recommendations will be provided to assist the universities in developing a more comprehensive disaster management document based on the evaluation framework.