By Terri Mock - February 8, 2021
Recently, Campus Security & Life Safety magazine hosted a webinar featuring Jeff Graviet and Stuart Moffatt – respectively the director of emergency services and associate director of emergency management at the University of Utah - whose responsibilities include planning, training, exercising, and preparing their campus community for all kinds of crises.
The challenge of keeping the university community safe is not a simple one. The university campus consists of five hundred buildings spread across 1,800 acres, and every day up to 60,000 people can be on-site at the same time. In the webinar, Jeff describes the campus as a city within a city – noting that, because the campus is open, it is regarded as a soft target.
In terms of the threats to campus safety, Stuart explained the university´s Threat Hazard Identification and Risk Analysis which puts natural, technological, and man-made hazards in the order of the impact they would have. Therefore, although the items at the top of the list may be of low probability, their consequences would be of greater significance.
In addition to the current coronavirus pandemic, the University of Utah has experienced homicides, an earthquake, a hurricane-level wind event, and power outages in the past five years. The objective of crisis response in most of these cases is to evacuate the campus: however, the campus does have a number of on-site shelters that can support those unable to evacuate for 72 hours.
The emergency management team is just one component of the university´s Department of Public Safety – which also includes security, police, dispatch, and community services teams. Because the emergency management team is limited in size, it has developed partnerships with each of the other public safety teams, with different university departments, and with volunteer staff to create a Situation, Triage, and Assessment Team (STAT).
The STAT team can provide an “all hands on deck” response if required, or individual units can be called into action depending on the nature of the emergency. In several circumstances, STAT team members are responsible for their own building security teams, and - when an emergency incident occurs - they act as an Emergency Response Coordinator between the team they are responsible for and the Emergency Coordination Center run by the emergency management team.
When larger scale incidents occur involving multiple buildings, the reports being received at the Emergency Coordination Center enable the emergency management team to build a “Common Operating Picture”. The Common Operating Picture is then shared with other components of the Department of Public Safety (security, police, dispatch, and community services) to enhance overall situational awareness and support a coordinated response.
When action is required from on-the-ground Emergency Response Coordinators and their building security teams, instructions are sent from the Emergency Coordination Center, which assumes the role of an Incident Command Center to manage the response and mitigate the consequences of the emergency. Effectively, the Emergency Coordination Center becomes the liaison in a unified incident management team through which all communications flow.
With the possibility of there being up to 60,000 people on campus at the same time, it is essential the university has an effective system of mass notification. As Stuart notes in the webinar, the adoption of Rave Alert has been a “game-changer” for the emergency management team as it not only enables the team to send up to 75,000 SMS alerts within minutes, but also integrates with other emergency notification systems via the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP).
The integrations enable the emergency management team to send out an SMS text alert with an embedded link at the end of it that directs recipients to the alert.utah.edu website. On the website, students and staff will find a rolling chronology of all alerts associated with the incident which provide further information about the nature of the incident, the location of the incident, and the actions students and staff should take to protect themselves from danger.
Because Rave Alert supports unlimited database segmentation, the emergency management team can send individual alerts to students and staff occupying different buildings, or different alerts to on-campus and off-campus staff. Separate alerts can also be sent to individual departments – for example student affairs to request support for counselling services or other programs – either by SMS, email, or social media.
The flexibility and the granularity of the Rave Alert platform quickly and clearly communicates what students and staff need to do in an emergency so response teams are able to respond to the emergency with clear access to a chaos-free environment. The efficiency with which the system works results in better outcomes to emergencies and less business disruption – enabling the University of Utah to resume operations as quickly as possible.
If you have a responsibility for student safety in an institute of higher education, and you would like to know more about the capabilities of Rave Alert, do not hesitate to get in touch with our team of safety experts. Our team will be happy to explain how Rave provides a critical communication and collaboration platform to connect campus security, first responders, and 9-1-1 for more coordinated incident response. Our proven and customizable options fit any higher education needs. Rave has a holistic approach to student safety.
Terri Mock is Rave's Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer, overseeing strategy, product, and marketing. She is an executive leader with achievements in delivering revenue growth, driving go-to-market, innovating products, and scaling operations from high-tech startups to global companies.