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Solving Your Common Emergency Notification Problems

August 2, 2011
Author: Robin Hattersley Gray
Source: Campus Safety Magazine

Planning, policies, coordination with other stakeholders and education will help to ensure everyone on campus is appropriately alerted during a crisis.

Here are some of the more common emergency communication challenges faced by universities and hospitals, and the solutions that public safety practitioners say work for them.

Challenge: Determining When to Issue a Warning
Mass notification professionals generally agree that the best way to address this issue is to brainstorm about possible threats and disaster scenarios long before a situation develops. Campus stakeholders should then come to a consensus on how the campus will respond. It is best to include these possible threats — be they severe weather, hurricanes, active shooter incidents, earthquakes or Hazmat situations — in a campus emergency notification policy. Florida State University's (FSU) policy, for example, covers several types of situations and can be found here.

The next step is to determine what is the specific hazard facing the campus and its potential impact on the institution. Is there the potential for serious injury, death, significant damage to property or a major disruption to campus operations? How soon does the message need to be sent (seconds, hours or days)? Who needs to be alerted?

UCLA, for example, has defined 45 potential scenarios: 15 of them — such as those involving active shooters, Hazmat incidents with injury or evacuation and bomb threats with evacuation — don't require confirmation. Another 30 require some type of confirmation.

"If we get a suspicious package today, we will send the police out to investigate," says UCLA Emergency Preparedness Manager David Burns. "If they determine that it is suspicious, then they will notify the Los Angeles Police Department bomb squad. But this also depends on the package's location and proximity to people. If it is in a parking lot surrounded by 200 feet of nothing, it is not considered an immediate risk."

Read the rest of the article at Campus Safety Magazine