5 Best Practices in Emergency Alerting at Universities/Colleges

It seems that campus shootings and emergencies continue to occur. The US govt has mandated that all educational institutions including schools, colleges and universities put in place emergency notification procedures to avoid such tragedies as Virginia Tech, and Illinois.  Here are 5 rules of thumb to consider as you are implementing a mass emergency notification plan for your campus. This blog is re-visited from one I wrote 5 years ago:

#1 Have an Emergency Plan & Team – Every campus typically has a multi-disciplinary team responsible for the first notifications in emergencies to the campus population and reaching first responders (police, EMS, fire, etc.). This team must put together a plan for emergencies such as fire in a lab or to deal with an active shooter or other threat. This plan must be reviewed and owned by the administration of the academic institution (be it Principal, President, etc.), the students, the faculty and operations personnel.

#2 Leverage Existing Infrastructure at the College / University – WiFi / Email / Voice – Campuses have WiFi networks, Email and Voice networks. These can be leveraged to deliver emergency alerts to the campus population in the first few minutes of an emergency. These will likely save people’s lives.

#3 Have multiple Emergency Alerting Pathways – WiFi / Email / SMS/ Voice / Pop-ups / Twitter/ Panic Buttons/  etc. – As per practice #2 – campuses spend millions of dollars on infrastructure including access control, cameras, critical and emergency notification systems. Many vendors will work with existing networks and all possible alerting pathways should be leveraged.

#4 Run through Emergency Exercises to Ensure Campus Population is Aware of Plan – It is difficult to have a plan that unpracticed. In an effort to avoid disruption to student and faculty, many campuses do not run drills. This is a mistake as practice makes perfect. Every term should include a drill of the emergency notification system of the campus.

#5 Review Emergency Plan with local Emergency Forces – Police / EMS / Fire – Finally, the first responders in an emergency will likely be police, EMS and fire personnel that must work with campus security. It is important that they be aware of the campus plan in case of an emergency and any vital early information that they may need to mitigate the risk to students and faculty be collected through the emergency team.

… Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile.

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