Customer Success Story
Rancho Santiago Community College District Provides an Inclusive Safety Net to Visitors
The Rancho Santiago Community College District, one of four community college districts located in Orange County, California, offers associate degrees and adult education certificates through its two colleges.
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In the fall of 2017, the Canyon 2 Fire broke out in the Anaheim Hills area of Anaheim. The fast-moving brush fire started near a major highway that morning and within hours burned 2,000 acres. All told, 9,217 acres burned in the region over eight days.
The fire burned right to the edges of Rancho Santiago Community College District’s Santiago Canyon College campus, jumping the campus and entering the nearby community. As the fire evolved, the local fire and police departments were stretched thin dealing with the local entities that burned. The Rancho Santiago Community College’s Security and Public Safety Department handled its own evacuation and street control around campus.
“Myself and my lieutenant weren’t in the office. We had brush burning and we had to do an evacuation; it was really bad,” said Antoinette “Toni” Bland, then chief of district safety and security at Rancho Santiago Community College District (RSCCD). “When we decided to evacuate, and we had to send out a notification, we just used our cell phones to send an alert while we’re putting out a small brush fire near the edge of campus. This is why I’m such a fan of Rave. We just used our cell phone and sent messages out in rapid succession. We evacuated our campus in a short period of time because we had Rave Alert.”
RSCCD is based in California’s Orange County and consists of two community colleges, Santa Ana College and Santiago Canyon College. The district office and other facilities include education centers, a fire training center and the Orange County Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy. The district switched to the Rave Alert mass notification system for its ease of use, effectiveness and reliability, as well as the option to send alerts through mobile.
“I wanted it to be easy to use, but I also wanted it to reach the intended recipients,” said Bland, who’s since retired. “We have a large district and it’s spread over different cities. We have two main campuses and seven centers, including a middle college with teenagers, and five child development centers, as well as centers for veterans. I wanted all those individuals to be reached and I wanted it done in a timely manner.”
As the fire started, four messages were sent out to the Santiago Canyon College community over text and email the first day alone. The initial alert announced the campus was closing and evacuating, with subsequent messages announcing which roads were closed so the remaining students and staff knew how to leave. The Santa Ana College community also received an alert to evacuate when smoke built up on campus. Messages continued the following days announcing both campuses were closed and later reopened.
“We were able to mobilize so quickly that people weren’t panicked because they knew what was happening and we got our campus evacuated,” Bland said. “It was easy-peasy. That’s what I wanted. During an emergency you have enough to worry about; you also don’t want to worry about emergency notifications.”
“You don’t have to do a lot of work to include the opt-in folks. That’s the beauty of Rave. During an emergency, there’s a little bit of chaos going on and little bit of stress, you don’t want to have to think too hard because you have competing interests in your mind.”
CHIEF OF DISTRICT SAFETY AND SECURITY
RANCHO SANTIAGO COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT
After the Canyon 2 Fire, an after-action report was issued and one area that needed to be addressed was including contractors, parents of children in the child development center, and others in alerts about emergencies. For example, contractors weren’t initially alerted to the evacuation plan when the fire first started.
As a result, RSCCD implemented Rave Alert’s SMS Opt-In feature, allowing parents, construction workers, vendors, attendees at special events, the Santa Ana police department, Santa Ana Unified School District police and others to opt in to the Rave mass notification system temporarily by texting a keyword to a short code. When an event occurs, they’ll receive messages and information even though they aren’t entered into a database. SMS Opt-In can automatically expire on a specific date or after a certain amount of time has passed.
“Whenever we send out an alert, we just check the box,” Bland said. “You don’t have to do a lot of work to include the opt-in folks. That’s the beauty of Rave. During an emergency, there’s a little bit of chaos going on and little bit of stress, you don’t want to have to think too hard because you have competing interests in your mind.”
“Rave Alert helps keep people safe,” she added. “We’re one of the largest districts in California and for us to have a way to send information quickly and easily to all of our 40,000 stakeholders is something that’s invaluable.”
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