When the Great Flood of 2008 hit towns across Eastern Iowa, officials from the University of Iowa shut its operations for a week, relocated and evacuated students and community residents, and suffered damage to over a dozen buildings. This study is a qualitative assessment of the experiences and perceptions of twelve university officials involved in the response and management of the disaster. Major themes are presented according to phases of the Disaster Management Cycle. During the preparedness phase, an established all-hazards plan as well as specific annexes for flooding and pandemic influenza proved to enhance community response to the flood. However, training university clientele across a large organization to execute these plans and respond to future disasters is not an easy task. The content and effective means for delivering these trainings are areas for further research. During the response phase of the flood, officials swiftly expedited a business continuity plan to assure that personnel were paid during the university closure. However, enforcing a policy to avoid coming to work during the closure was challenging. Thus, future work must be done to determine and implement effective disaster communications that relay clear messages about roles and responsibilities. Now, in recovery, the university must rebuild its infrastructure and consider potential mental health issues. Lessons learned from the Great Flood of 2008 provide the opportunity to self-assess and prepare universities for disasters in the future.
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Acknowledgments This work was supported by the University of Iowa Injury Prevention Research Center funded by NCIPC at CDC [grant number CDC CCR 703640] and the University of Iowa Office of the Provost, Pan Flu Task Force.