By Mary Kate McGrath - June 1, 2020
The Clery Act requires colleges and universities that receive funding to disseminate a public annual security report (ASR) to employees and students by October 1. Annual security reports include statistics on sexual assaults, dating violence hate crimes, alcohol or drug policy violations, vehicle thefts, and other crimes. The document also outlines how an institution communicates with the entire campus community about potential risks, as well as include information about campus safety prevention and awareness measures, building safety, and emergency drills.
ASRs help faculty, staff, and current or prospective students better understand safety procedures and protocol at a college or university. Current students, faculty, and staff can use the report to increase their situational awareness and make informed decisions about safety on campus, while prospective students and their families can use the document to inform their decision making. It is therefore important for statewide university systems to maintain annual clery act compliance, and with the appropriate communication tools, it’s possible to save money on the process of documenting, compiling, publishing, and disseminating an ASR report.
The Clery Act, or the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Crime Statistics Act, is a federal law passed in 1990 that requires colleges to report crimes that occur on campus and school safety policies. The Clery Act requires colleges and universities to:
Clery Act compliance requires considerable coordination across campus or university departments, and for major state university systems, this process can be even more complicated. Ensuring that all campus safety teams across multiple campuses are adequately fielding student crime reports, communicating risks to community members, as well as publishing thorough crime logs and annual ASRs, can be greatly facilitated by an emergency alert system.
By leveraging a comprehensive emergency alert system, several key criteria of the Clery Act communication compliance can be more easily met. The first, and most clear, use case for mass notification is for timely notifications. One tip for statewide university systems is to get organized and be ready to save critical alert time with pre-set templates. For certain emergencies - such as extreme weather situations, theft, or active-shooter situations, having a pre-scripted alert can be a critical timesaving measure. The faster the community can be informed, the better individuals can take action to protect themselves, mitigating potential harm.
It's important to conduct regular evaluations or safety audits using an emergency alert system as well, using it to reach community members and better understand the effectiveness of safety protocol currently in place. Using a system that has an automatic polling module allows administrators to solicit responses in real-time via SMS text, e-mail, or voice calls. Data collected from these polls - which can include any questions from whether or not faculty or staff feel safe on campus, to wellness checks amid the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the use of polling can ensure that faculty understand how best to notify campus police during an emergency, or involve them in the development process for emergency drills.
Routine updates to safety policies are also likely to be part of your institution’s Clery Act compliance, as safety managers can use this information to better update safety plans and protocols to be published in the Annual Security Report. It can also help safety managers better gather information from students, further bolstering Clery Act-compliant communication with timely and accurate crime logs.
Another potential communication-boosting feature of a emergency alert system, or mass notification system, is the ability to perform emergency drills or lockdown drills. Not only do these practices allow a statewide system to test the platforms’s reliability as a communication system for emergency and non-emergency messaging, but it can also make students, faculty, and staff more familiar with the technology. State colleges or universities often have large or spread out communities, which pose unique challenges to strategic communications. Once a mass notification system is in place, the ability to run drills or tests of said system will ensure that it is reaching all members of the community in a timely and effective way.
Prioritizing a high-capacity mass notification system can save funds for any statewide university system as well. The ability to reach across multiple channels in the case of an emergency, whether it is severe weather, a crime, or coronavirus related event, is key. Notifying your entire community with three-clicks via voice, text, email, website, digital signage, social media, or other channels, will greatly increase your capacity to reach the entire campus in situations where seconds count. Leveraging an emergency campus solution that encourages campus community members to actively participate and engage can further promote campus safety, making safety reports more comprehensive and the institution ultimately more secure.
Statewide university systems that span multiple campuses and have a variety of unique needs can benefit greatly from using one mass notification system as part of a single package. Not only does the decision make fiscal sense, it also can improve campus communications, ensuring all departments across campuses are on the same page. Administrators can then tailor the system to meet any of the state university or college’s unique needs, sending targeted messages by segmenting lists or assigning administrative rights by role. This way, all community members will receive vital safety information, while various teams or departments can be informed of
By implementing a complete solution across the state, your college or university system will ultimately save funds, streamline Clery Act communication compliance, and better keep community members safe.
Mary Kate is a content specialist and social media manager for the Rave Mobile Safety team. She writes about public safety for the state & local and education spheres.
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