Emergencies on campus

Allowing students to be notified by e-mail, cell phone, text message and land line
Posted Thursday, April 17, 2008 - 12:00am

Following the Virginia Tech incident where 32 people were killed on campus by a gunman, there is no doubt that students and parents alike are wondering what CEU is doing to protect students, faculty and staff on campus.

According to Brad King, "The goal would be to contact as much of the campus as possible in the shortest amount of time.   We did a drill last summer where we tried to physically contact each of the buildings with information. This was done on foot as the phones and electricity were out.   It took just over 15 minutes just to get the information across campus.   This new method would accomplish this in under two minutes with significant detail, including what to do."

The campus safety committee proposed the CEU Emergency Operations Plan which "identifies natural and man-made hazards which may impact the campus community. It details the response and recovery procedures that facility officials should follow if disaster strikes. The implementation of this plan will be under direction of the CEU President, vice presidents and the CEU Emergency Management Director." The full text for the proposed plan is located at http://www.ceu.edu/policies/Pending.aspx.

"This plan is not finalized yet. We are waiting on the final piece which is the notification piece. The dean of students in the state have been researching products and have not made a final recommendation. On campus we have a committee working with Eric Mantz who has found a product that many of us are excited about. It will be presented soon in a president's cabinet meeting.   If approved, we will be pursing it for implementation next fall," King said

The program is called Sendwordnow and, according to the website, its features are to "Efficiently communicate with large numbers of people in seconds or minutes: quickly, securely and reliably distribute critical information in real-time. People will know what is happening when it is happening to minimize human and financial risk, reduce miscommunications and the dissemination of misinformation due to human error or to interoperability challenges, free up key personnel so they can focus on critical tasks instead of on communications logistics, increase productivity by ensuring employee awareness and utilization of corporate resources and meet government and regulatory compliance obligations. "

King added, "This system would allow students to be notified by e-mail, cell phone, text message and land line. It allows students to respond to a number of different questions in order to report their condition. The program will track every response and the notifications will go almost simultaneously to all contact numbers. The program will send, for example up to 3,000 cell calls in less than two minutes."

The company demonstrated the program with the example of a message being sent out notifying students of a fire in Dorm A and telling them to evacuate the building. The students were then giving three choices in which to respond. 1) I am out and okay 2) I am out, but hurt 3) I am trapped inside and can't get out. Anyone who chooses 3 would be immediately contacted to find out where they were trapped. (This was actually tested on a smaller scale contacting 10 people for the demonstration)

This system could only be initiated by one of five administrators of the system and the usage would be part of the new procedure.

This system could serve as an announcement system but would be specifically used for emergencies. The problem with using it for other announcements would be that if it is used too much for non-emergencies, people would ignore the messages. "They did however say that if there were a designated time each week in the evening set aside for such announcements, it might be effective without taking away from the main goal of the system"

A testing schedule would need to be developed to test the system once or twice the semester to make sure that the contact information remains current and to keep everyone aware of how the system works.

The cost of the service is approximately $2.00 per student per year.

According to Eric Mantz, "We also are going to setup up paging groups – which is separate from this system.   As we place more IP phones on desks, we can have the phones in a building provide paging broadcasts of messages."

Students can become involved in this program by volunteering their contact information to the college for such emergency use. This information would be gathered through a number of different methods, such as orientation and education forums detailing the procedure. This will most likely take place next fall.

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