In 2000, six schools participated in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Disaster Resistant Universities pilot initiative. The intent of FEMA’s initiative was to support university efforts to reduce and manage vulnerability to hazards. The pilot initiative yielded a grant program and a how-to guide focused on mitigation and risk reduction. The grant program was short-lived—there was only one funding cycle, and fewer than 20 schools receiving grant funding for campus mitigation planning. 

Background: When FEMA cut the funding, several institutions of higher education kept the core concept of the DRU alive. They saw the need for a practical, common-sense approach to disaster planning on their campuses. In 2005, after a national meeting of DRU campuses at the University of Washington, the University of Oregon started the Disaster Resilient Universities® (DRU) listserv. The listserv quickly became the cornerstone of the DRU Network® and served as a multidisciplinary, practitioner-based communication resource. The goal was simple: facilitate open communication, discussion, and resource sharing among university/college practitioners charged with making America's campuses more disaster resilient. 

What DRU does: As of July 2019 the DRU listserv had more than 2200 members representing approximately 800 institutions. Today, the DRU Listserv provides a simple resource for increased communication, coordination, and collaboration among universities to mitigate, prepare for, respond to, operate during, and recover from natural disasters, acts of terrorism, or other crises. 

The DRU Network and concept has continued to evolve over time. Key to the evolution was the formation of the University & College Caucus (UCC) under the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) and Partnership with National Center of Campus Public Safety (NCCPS). The DRU Network and UCC have developed a number of tools and resources on a peer-to-peer multidisciplinary basis. These include: 

  • Annual summits and roundtables;
  • Practitioner-based training and course development;
  • Standards & resilience crosswalk tool;
  • Emergency Management Accreditation Program (EMAP) for Higher Education;
  • University Incident Management Teams (IMT) concept and development;
  • National Intercollegiate Mutual Aid Agreement (NIMAA); and
  • 2016 National Higher Education Emergency Management Program Needs Assessment

After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, DRU members helped affected Institutions of Higher Education via the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) process and their own expertise. The DRU Network also provided real-time data to the U.S. Department of Education on campus closures and other issues. In 2015, the DRU and UCC members developed first National Intercollegiate Mutual Aid Agreement (NIMAA) for all intuitions of higher education to establish more formal partnerships between schools and other mutual-aid groups to help IHEs develop simple, open-source data-collection tools that assess the effects of disasters.  

Why DRU matters: Creating a disaster-resilient campus is an exceedingly complex problem. It requires communication, coordination, cooperation, and a focused effort from the entire university, including the executive leadership, faculty/researchers, staff, students, and external partners. The DRU Network helps this effort because its interdisciplinary approach leverages members' knowledge and expertise to provide technical assistance and resources.