Ramping Up Manpower During a Campus Crisis
When an emergency happens, online scheduling software can help campuses manage employee deployment and improve communication.
The fundamental purpose of each university and school is to provide students with a quality education in a safe learning environment. The primary responsibility of every hospital is to care for and enhance the wellbeing of its patients. But what happens when something jeopardizes the safety of students and patients that is beyond the control of the facility’s employees and administrators?
From an active shooter to a massive explosion, emergency situations can occur with little or no warning. And when a crisis occurs in a hospital, school or university, its safety department is subjected to a sudden surge in demand for services. The success of the department’s efforts relies largely on having an adequate number of employees on site to provide the volume and level of care to meet impending demands.
Most universities, schools and hospitals have policies and procedures in place for the mitigation of, preparedness for and response to emergency events. But how can a facility rapidly fulfill excessive manpower requirements while simultaneously managing the crisis at hand?
Some safety departments implement a manual phone tree to alert personnel of the need for additional staff. This process begins when one person calls two or three people to relay the information. They, in turn, call the people assigned to them and the cycle continues until everyone is informed.
Although this sounds like a practical process, there are many variables within this type of system that make it an inadequate form of communication. What happens when one person misses the call? They remain unaware of the situation and subsequently, so does each person in that call chain. Ideally there would be a backup plan, but during an emergency any delay of information compromises response time.
As campus security and IT departments have searched for more effective notification methods, many who are using online scheduling software have discovered that it does much more than help manage employees’ schedules and can be a powerful communication tool. That is what the Truman State University Department of Public Safety learned after adopting ScheduleAnywhere as their employee scheduling solution.
“In addition to giving everyone online access to the most current schedule, the software allows us to instantly notify employees of changes to schedules and staffing requirements,” says Truman State Sergeant Jeremy Cordray. “It has saved us a lot of time and decreased confusion about what is going on when changes are made.”
The ability to immediately contact all employees gives healthcare and educational facilities a head start on meeting the demand for additional manpower during an emergency. Systems that send notifications through multiple channels of communication — such as email and text messaging — provide added insurance that everyone will receive notifications. In times of crisis when traditional methods of communication may not be available due to interruptions of service, an alternative communication platform, such as a mobile app that can be accessed from any mobile device, is also a beneficial provision.
Because there are often multiple departments and locations within hospitals, schools and universities, it can be challenging to ensure every position is filled with the appropriate personnel. Software that allows schedules to be shared across the entire organization allows managers to reference the availability of all employees, including sworn and nonsworn security personnel, facilities staff, contract security officers and other administrators. Managers can also message one another about shared employees, no matter in which department they work. This drastically reduces miscommunication and scheduling conflicts.
To further ensure proper shift coverage, some systems filter schedules by criteria such as job titles, responsibilities and certifications. This allows managers to quickly identify and notify a select group of employees to ensure the most qualified individuals are positioned to most effectively manage each situation. For example, if a circumstance requires the presence of a sworn security officer who speaks Spanish, this sorting feature gives managers the ability to instantly locate and contact only the employees with these qualifications.
When disaster strikes, there is no room for error and no time for improvisation. Campus safety departments that invest time up front to implement staff notification, scheduling and management tools have the best chance for immediate mobilization and proficient response implementation. And when the safety of students, patients or employees is threatened, every minute can mean the difference between tragedy and an effectively mitigated situation.
Jon Forknell is the vice president and general manager of Atlas Business Solutions, which owns ScheduleAnywhere, a provider of online employee scheduling software.
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Campus Safety magazine is another great resource for public safety, security and emergency management professionals. It covers all aspects of campus safety, including access control, video surveillance, mass notification and security staff practices. Whether you work in K-12, higher ed, a hospital or corporation, Campus Safety magazine is here to help you do your job better!