Skip to main content

Emergency management director retires after 28 years

As Ken Long was responding to the biggest emergency he would handle in his 28 years at Indiana University, he found his professional and personal lives overlapping.

Ken Long, IU Bloomington director of Emergency Management and Continuity, inside the Emergency Op... Ken Long, IU Bloomington director of Emergency Management and Continuity, inside the Emergency Operations Center. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

It was January 2020, the director of Emergency Management & Continuity at IU Bloomington, had contracted COVID-19 — the very disease he was closely monitoring to help coordinate the Bloomington campus’s response. Even as he suffered complications from his illness that, at times, took him away from work, he wasn’t worried about IU.

“Our entire emergency preparedness initiatives have been an all-hazards approach,” Long said. “We didn’t try to plan for any one type of emergency; we tried to look at it holistically.”

That type of emergency planning proved beneficial as IU and the world grappled with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Long coordinated with colleagues across the university, as well as the county and state, to move in-person operations at IU Bloomington online in March 2020, and he played a role in the robust on-campus COVID-19 testing operations that were in place when students returned to campus in fall 2020.

“Move-in is already a big deal,” he said. “Throw on top of it testing for COVID — that made a whole different way of looking at move in. COVID really showed the value of working with teams because it didn’t just affect Bloomington.”

The relationships he’s built while working with different teams over his nearly three decades of service at IU are what Long said he will miss most after retiring Sept. 6.

“I’m most proud of the relationships I’ve developed and how much of a team player those people are that I’ve worked with,” he said.

Ken Long in 1994, the year he retired from the Marine Corps and joined IU. Ken Long in 1994, the year he retired from the Marine Corps and joined IU.Long started his career at IU in 1994, after retiring from the Marine Corps. He was hired as a claims adjuster in the Office of Risk Management (now the Office of Insurance, Loss Control and Claims) and took on some emergency preparedness duties before IU had a unit dedicated to that area.

“He knew how to lead people and he knew how to pay attention to detail,” said Larry Stephens, who hired Long and worked with him for more than a decade. “That was something that was really required for the job.”

From then on, emergency preparedness became an increasingly bigger part of his role, and Long helped lay the groundwork for what would eventually become Emergency Management and Continuity by creating IU’s first “Crisis and Disaster Plan.”

In addition to planning for routine events, Long has navigated Y2K, 9/11, the H1N1 pandemic and now the COVID-19 pandemic. While the work is challenging, he said he has always felt a call to service.

“Both of my careers, in the Marines and at IU, have to do with serving people,” he said. “Technology changes and people have new ideas, but ultimately you’ve got to get the mission accomplished.”

Long said he feels like he’s reached the point in his career when it’s time for a new mission, although he doesn’t have any specific plans for retirement. As someone who is always planning for contingencies and emergency scenarios, the unknown doesn’t scare him. But, there is one thing he’s looking forward to.

“I did often get phone calls at odd hours,” he said. “I won’t miss those.”

Barbara Brosher is a communications consultant with IU Studios.