For the past year, the University has been engaged in a crisis communication planning process. The process began after Chancellor Philip L. Dubois made it known to the Office of Emergency Management that crisis communication was a top priority of his that needed to be addressed.
Dubois said in an email sent to all students that the goal of the process was to learn more about how to “issue timely and effective alerts, ensure campus safety and distribute relevant information during an emergency.”
“I’ve always felt as though we have the capabilities and the capacity to do this successfully, to do a good job at crisis communications,” Director of Emergency Management Chris Gonyar said.
With the help of a consulting firm, the University has been studying the roles and responsibilities of the different university departments in regards to emergency situations as well as campus safety education.
A recent survey completed by students and their family members addressed the topic of preferred methods of communication.
“I think it just confirmed something that we were already aware of. People like to receive information in a variety of different ways,” Gonyar said. “We have to make sure that our system is wide enough and broad enough that we’re touching on as many people as we can.”
In response to the survey, the University has acquired a new emergency system, Rave, which will tie together all the notifications that students receive, including text message, email, the LiveSafe app and the ability to takeover the on-campus digital screens.
According to Gonyar, Rave is faster than the previous system and will allow the Office of Emergency Management to better study analytics, showing how many students are receiving the messages and how long it is taking each message to go through.
The University conducted their first test of the new system Wednesday morning, which consisted of sending a test alert to all students, faculty and staff.
The test was successful with 85 percent of the 48,000 contact points in the system reached in under one minute and 39 seconds. There was an overall 99 percent success rate of messages.
Roughly 29,000 cell phone numbers received the test alert. The University is asking students who did not receive a text to update their information.
Rave also has the ability to connect to the campus sirens so that in the case of an emergency, they can go off with a click of a button, but this will involve updating the siren’s hardware, a part of the Office of Emergency Management’s long term plan.
The survey also found that students preferred to have a directive in the subject line of an alert when action needs to be taken. An example of this would be “seek shelter” in the subject line of a tornado warning or “run, hide, fight” in the subject line of an active shooter alert.
The survey results also showed that people wanted to receive “all clear” notifications when an imminent threat had ended as well as continuous updates in emergency situations.
The University is currently making decisions on what kind of alerts will receive what types of notification.
“Through the project, we have examined what we send alerts for and how but it’s still a work in process,” Gonyar said.
The work on the plan will continue until early summer and will include the reviewing Rave but also more detailed planning on other situations, such as if the University had to have an evacuation.
Students can expect to receive more information about the process in August, according to Dubois’ email.