On October 1st, several higher education institutions receiving federal funding will be required to disseminate a public annual security report (ASR) to employees and students. The Clery Act was updated in 2010 to require colleges and universities to include emergency response and evacuation procedures in their ASRs. While the Clery Act doesn’t specify how campus emergency officials should initiate communications, such as through an emergency alert system, it does outline the scenarios that may require a timely notification or means for alerting students and faculty.
For some federally-funded universities with multiple campuses spread throughout different locations, compliance with the communication portion of the Clery Act can be challenging. A mass communication system such as Rave Alert helps meet this requirement to communicate campus-wide, but not without optimizing the system to its fullest potential. Here are the three best practices to achieve mass communication requirements under the Clery Act.
1. Be as organized as possible. While this may sound like a ‘master of the obvious’ recommendation, it’s critically important to successfully optimize a mass communication system. Whether an event that occurs is classified as life-threatening or not, immediate classification allows school emergency management staff to assess the situation and alert students and faculty in a timely manner as well as provide them with next steps to how they should react in the emergency. It also allows for specific targeting of areas that are most affected. When every second counts in a life-threatening situation, a pre-scripted message is needed immediately to notify those on campus of the threat. By using a template, institutions can send an emergency notification in just two clicks ensuring they get the notification out as fast as possible.
2. Perform drills for non-emergencies. An emergency alert system should be tested and used for situations across campus other than emergencies. This will get students and faculty more familiar with receiving the alerts, and they’ll be more prepared to react appropriately in the event of an emergency. It’s also a great way to ensure that there are no issues with the system. Routinely testing emergency alert systems at least once a year helps ensure that the information in the system is the most current.
3. Capture lessons-learned from each use. As the use of an emergency alert system increases over the years, university emergency management staff will likely learn that every situation has unique elements that will likely need to be handled differently. For example, staff may second-guess pushing out notifications if they’re required to create a new emergency alert for each instance. Pre-scripted templates would have to be constantly evaluated and updated to cover new scenarios. Training is also crucial in resolving this confidence-level issue. Making use of training mode within the emergency notification system can help users practice sending alerts in the interface so that they can be more comfortable if these situations were to occur in the future and make suggestions for changes.
Overall, organization, testing and regular evaluations are key when it comes to complying with the Clery Act’s emergency notification requirements. While you can always go beyond Clery Act requirements and expand your notification system’s reach, don’t wait until an emergency occurs to use your alert system. Optimize your system and be sure that campus safety officials are prepared to react appropriately.
For more on the Clery Act, click here.