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