We understand that there are so many conflicting features out there when it comes to emergency notification solutions. It can be hard to decide which might be most effective for your university or organization and which truly align with “best practices”. That’s why we recently sponsored a panel discussion during the Campus Safety Magazine’s 2018 Online Summit to bring experts in emergency management and safety together to discuss what they’ve tried and tested and decided was best for them.
This panel titled “Are Your Emergency Notifications Keeping up with the Times?” allowed each panelist to speak about their best practices within emergency notification. On this panel were Jeffrey Morgan (University of Central Florida), Sam Kennedy (Virginia Commonwealth University), Art Kirkland (University of California Los Angeles), Ara Bagdasarian (Omnilert) along with the host Robin Hattersley (Editor in Chief of Campus Safety Magazine). These panelists may be spread out across the nation, but they each have the same goal of keeping students, staff, and visitors safe.
Here are 3 best practices that all experts agree with and use at their individual campuses:
1. Importance of using a multimodal solution
In this day and age, technology has progressed to offer universities, and organizations of every industry, a way to reach as many people as possible through every endpoint. The initial ways of sending mass alerts was through email and text messages. These methods are still valid; however, it is recognized that they cannot reach every person on a campus. There’s no way to ensure everyone has their phone or computer on them at all times to receive the alerts. In addition, everyone digests information differently. The panelists spoke about using a combination of endpoints they knew would reach every single person on campus. Some people take in information better when reading it opposed to others who might need to hear an audible alert. They must also have a way to reach those who cannot see or hear - or who have not registered to receive the notification.
2. Database management - Using Opt-out or Opt-in
Each organization, and sometimes even states, have regulations pertaining to opt-out or opt-in regarding subscription services for a mass notification system. To opt-out means subscribers are automatically entered into the system. Usually, this would happen at the beginning of the semester in a mass upload. Opt-in allows users to self-register for their emergency notification solution. This lets each user enter the information they want to get alerted through - personal email or mobile phone. Because of the regulations pertaining to signing up, the panelists each had their own reasoning for using one or the other. Each also mentioned they use multimodality to ensure they reach everyone through more than an email or text message. No matter which form of signups an organization uses, it’s imperative that the delivery rate is analyzed to ensure maximum reach is met.
- 3. Using pre-scripted message templates or creating messages as needed
Each organization agreed that using pre-scripted message templates simplifies the process of sending an emergency alert. Although every emergency situation is different, having the core foundation of the message already created saves time. Leaving a custom field for the specific date and time, as well as location, adds needed specifics to the message - without having to create one from scratch each time you are in need. Your messages should be short and to the point and as clear as possible.
Having those templated messages ready for as many emergencies as possible makes sending an alert much easier. Especially when there could be a team who’s responsible for sending a message. After that first pre-scripted message is sent, or holding message, you may need to create a message from scratch with more details for your organization. However, with the initial notification, you’ve gotten the word out as quickly as possible.
When you listen to the full webinar, you’ll understand that no matter where an organization is located or how many people they must alert, the main goal is safety. Leverage the best practices in this webinar to make sure your emergency notification system is primed to reach and communicate with your people in the most effective way possible.
The full webinar is available here.