By Terri Mock - February 22, 2021
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, campus safety communications are a lot different today than they were twelve months ago – not only in content, but also in delivery. Before, colleges and universities could engage students and staff on-site. Now, many are operating remotely or under a hybrid model - and operations can change at very short notice.
If you go back to the start of the 2019-2020 academic year, campus safety concerns had a familiar ring to them. At the time, we were discussing how colleges and universities could protect students against sexual assaults, address mental health issues, and prevent online identity theft. We also wrote about how colleges and universities could protect campus communities against manmade and natural threats.
Then came the COVID-19 pandemic; and while the existing campus safety concerns didn't go away, they were overshadowed by the prioritization of transmission mitigation measures. For some colleges and universities, this meant implementing and enforcing social distancing measures. For others it meant operating remotely or under a hybrid model consisting of some in-person classes and some online instruction.
In theory, safety communication should not have been a challenge despite different people working and studying in different places. By their nature, campus populations are fluid; and most colleges and universities have solutions in place to communicate with students and staff whether they live, work, and study on-campus or off-campus. However, solutions that lack immediacy (i.e., email) are not capable of keeping up with the speed at which campuses are opening and closing.
Furthermore, as the video below highlights, safety communications are failing to provide student access to critical resources, failing to engage and inform students, and failing to keep students safe and healthy – notwithstanding that while the COVID-19 pandemic continues, universities are reporting an increased number of sexual assaults, student mental health is reported to have plummeted, and there has been a significant increase in cyberattacks against students.
The way to overcome safety communication hurdles in higher ed is to implement a unified communications solution that meets the needs of students wherever they are. This means providing students with real-time alerts and access to services via communication channels they are likely to use. It means providing students with a vehicle through which campus leaders can check on their well-being; and it means providing students with a means to report health and safety concerns.
While this may seem like a lofty list of requirements, it is not an insurmountable hurdle to overcome. By integrating Rave Alert's powerful mass notification platform with the Rave Guardian personal safety app, institutions of higher education can:
Because it is not always necessary to send every message to every student and member of staff, Rave Alert supports location-based messaging and unlimited database segmentation. This allows system administrators to send messages to only those people for whom it is relevant - which not only reduces the management overhead but also proactively combats alert fatigue attributable to students receiving too many unnecessary messages.
Rave Alert also has the useful capability of SMS opt-in, which allows temporary visitors such as parents, agency staff, or contractors to opt in to the mass notification database by texting a keyword to a short code number. This capability not only has advantages for alerting temporary visitors to emergencies, as it can be used (for example) to keep delegates informed of events during conferences or to engage visiting fans during home sports events.
With regards to the Rave Guardian personal safety app, one of the app's most powerful capabilities is a safety timer virtual escort which allows students to set a fixed time for arriving at their destination. If the timer is not deactivated before it expires, an alert is sent to the student's contacts – which can include on-site security – to notify them of a potential adverse event. If a problem does exist, security can remotely view the student's location to accelerate emergency assistance.
Rave Mobile Safety's critical communication and collaboration solution for higher education institutions provides all these capabilities and more. As colleges and universities navigate uncertain times and prepare for an unclear future, the ability to communicate quickly and reliably is more important than ever. To find out more about overcoming higher ed's biggest safety communication hurdles, do not hesitate to get in touch and discuss your requirements with our team of safety experts.
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.