27 Emergency Notification Best Practices

Conducting a risk analysis, sharing resources, creating clear, concise messages and more can help your campus send emergency alerts.

For several years now, Campus Safety magazine has been adding to our list of best practices recommended by the campus protection professionals, emergency notification equipment manufacturers and other subject matter experts we’ve interviewed. Below is our latest compilation.

Related Article: Navigating the Complexities of Emergency Notification Systems Integration

Please note that although these best practices are numbered, the creation of an effective mass notification program is not a linear process. These recommendations should be considered as a whole when adopting new or upgraded equipment, revising emergency notification plans and updating policies and procedures.

  1. Conduct a risk analysis for your overall emergency plan
  2. Involve your campus IT department
  3. Share resources and work with other stakeholders, including neighbors, county, city, churches, local businesses, etc.
  4. Use several technologies; no one method of communication will reach everyone
  5. Conduct site assessments for each technology deployed
  6. Determine ahead of time who has the authority to issue alerts
  7. Messages should originate from a trusted campus authority
  8. Determine ahead of time the situations when you will activate your emergency notification system
  9. Create clear, concise audible and written messages by working with campus public relations
  10. Use and test the system often but not too often
  11. Create groups of first responders and decision makers who can receive messages more frequently
  12. Automate your SMS text alert database
  13. Incorporate adequate logical security measures to protect your SMS alert database
  14. Avoid spam filters by white listing (Note: most reputable vendors automatically do this)
  15. Market your mass notification program, and educate the campus community on how the system is used, what to expect and what to do during an emergency
  16. Adopt the opt-out approach to text alert enrollment (or make enrollment mandatory)
  17. Manage the message when the media are involved by having a good crisis communications plan in place
  18. Work with international student groups so they will receive and understand emergency messages during a crisis
  19. Include visitors and transient public in your emergency notification plans
  20. Choose the delivery methods most appropriate for the situation. Don’t use the all-or-nothing approach to issuing alerts.
  21. Adopt technologies, policies and procedures that will enable effective communication with the hearing- and sight-impaired
  22. Mark your storm shelters
  23. Make tests realistic and conduct them at busy times
  24. Regularly train staff on how to issue alerts
  25. Adopt a change-management procedure so that everything is documented and everyone knows about system changes/improvements
  26. For campuses that have undergone major construction or renovation, verify your existing mass notification systems (sirens, loudspeakers, SMS text alert systems, etc.) still provide appropriate coverage
  27. Determine how your campus will communicate with parents during and after an emergency

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About the Author

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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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