Clery Compliance Part 2: Emergency Response, Notification Guidelines

Under the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) of 2008, which went into effect this July, colleges and universities have new rules relating to emergency response, emergency notification, missing student notification, fire safety reporting and hate crime reporting. This special section will help your campus meet these requirements

Containing the Emergency is Priority No. 1, but…

Another key point of the new rules addresses the timeframe in which warnings must be issued. Each institution’s procedures must ensure that emergency notifications will be issued “without delay, and taking into account the safety of the community.” The only exception is if doing so would “compromise efforts to assist a victim or to contain, respond to, or otherwise mitigate the emergency.” Additionally, both of these aspects must be directly addressed in each institution’s summary of procedures in the annual Clery Act report. The words “without delay” must be used verbatim.

This makes containing the emergency priority No. 1, as it should be. However, the next priority is issuing a notification, and that, after confirmation, must be done before anything else unless it is necessary to contain the emergency. This determination should be made “in the professional judgment of responsible authorities” and not personnel without emergency response expertise.

While this provision applies much more broadly than the timely warning requirement, which is triggered by an underlying Clery reportable crime, there may be situations when both would apply. In these cases, the U.S. Department of Education has said that an institution need only issue an emergency notification and not subsequently issue a redundant warning. The college or university, however, must provide adequate follow-up information along the lines that would typically be included in a more detailed timely warning poster or E-mail.

Inform Campus Community About Testing, Evacuations

Institutions must also have and disclose procedures for testing their emergency response and evacuation procedures at least once annually. It is important to note that this refers to testing the overall emergency response procedures, not just the emergency notification system, although that is advisable too and could certainly be a part of the annual test.

The Clery Act guidelines define a test as “Regularly scheduled drills, exercises, and appropriate follow-through activities, desi
gned for assessment and evaluation of emergency plans and capabilities.” This covers a wide range of potential options (see “Range of Test Options Under the Clery Act” sidebar) that would include everything from an active shooter drill to a simulated disaster exercise across an entire campus.

It may be announced or unannounced. The statement must address how each institution will document its test, and the documentation of each test must be kept for seven years. Because it must be scheduled or planned, an institution may not count a real world response as its annual test.

Describe How Response Procedures Will Be Publicized

The policy statement must address how each institution’s emergency response procedures will be publicized every year in conjunction with at least one annual test. This must be separate from the disclosure in the ASR and need not involve direct notice. The intention is to help inform the campus community about what to expect and what they should do in the event of an emergency. A poster campaign, flyers, E-mails, or other forms of marketing, even media releases, are all methods an institution could use to satisfy this requirement.

Just like the rest of our society, serious emergencies may occur on our nation’s college and university campuses. Much like the lessons of 9/11, the lessons of 4/16 will help all of us be better prepared to respond when the unthinkable happens.

S. Daniel Carter is the director of the 32 National Campus Safety Index.

What Is an “On-Campus Student Housing Facility”?

Beginning with this year’s data collection process the U.S. Department of Education will for the first time be using the term “On-campus student housing facility” for both Clery Act crime statistics and the new campus fire safety statistics. While a new term, adopted from the fire safety requirements for consistency’s sake, it means the exact same thing as it has since campuses began reporting this Clery subset in 1999 – a dormitory or other residential facility for students that is located on an institution’s campus.

Any student housing owned or controlled by the institution or that is located on property owned or controlled by the institution within the reasonably contiguous geographic area that makes up the campus falls into this category. This includes traditional dormitories or residence halls, Greek houses if at least the underlying property is owned by the institution, and apartment style housing.

Institutions with at least one on-campus student housing facility must report Clery crime statistics in this subset, must have a missing students policy for students living in that category of housing that is summarized in their annual Clery report, and must disclose an annual campus fire safety report.

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