Emergencies happen. You can never be 100% prepared for an emergency at your institution, but you can have a plan in place for keeping your students updated. Last week, there were incidents at the University of Texas and Colgate University in which emergency communications failed when students needed them most.
The Chronicle of Higher Education wrote a detailed report about last week’s emergency situation at the University of Texas. During a fatal stabbing on campus, students began circulating incorrect rumors in the absence of updates from the university. 30 minutes passed before an emergency alert was sent out. Students had no idea what was happening on their campus and didn’t know what precautions to take. Misinformation spread like wildfire before the university was able to regain control.
Says the article: “The 30 minutes between the time violence erupted on Monday at the University of Texas at Austin and the time an emergency alert went out to students seemed like an eternity to people who are accustomed to minute-by-minute updates on their phones.”
A similar situation took place at Colgate University last week. University officials used the school’s Twitter account to warn students of an “armed person” on campus. Though the “armed person” turned out to be an art student with a glue gun, students were still upset about learning of a potential threat through social media.
Both of these cases caused unnecessary panic and worry among students and families. Rumors started because university officials could not or would not directly and immediately communicate with students, instead relying on mass communication platforms like Twitter or email. Many students missed the alerts altogether because they didn’t follow their institution on Twitter or they hadn’t opted in to receive emergency alerts.
In emergencies, time is of the essence. You need to get information out to students as quickly as possible, which is why emergency texting systems are often used by institutions. There are some great emergency alert systems out there. However, these systems have a major flaw: they’re solely one-way. Students can’t text back if they need updates, are in need of assistance, or have critical information about the situation.
Supplementing your emergency alert system with a system of engagement is the best way to address emergencies on campus. Information is immediately shared, and students can get in touch with university officials much faster than they could through social media. Don’t let what happened last week happen to your students. Reduce fears and cut down on misinformed rumors by sharing information students need, when they need it.
About the author: Paige is the Marketing Associate at Signal Vine. She enjoys writing for the Signal Vine blog and creating marketing material for Signal Vine. Follow her on LinkedIn!