From Galain President Rick Wimberly’s Blog “Alerts and Notifications: Best Practices For Emergency Notification Programs”

in Emergency Management Magazine

A Washington TV station recently looked at the realities of alerting on a college campus. The News 4 Investigative Team report said it found some area colleges still struggling with alerting students, despite students being connected in so many ways.

The challenges are no different than public safety officials face alerting the general public – getting people to sign up for text alerting. The schools have students email addresses, in fact provide them…but, many students don’t check their email often. So, texting could be a stronger channel.  The station said one local school has an opt-out, rather than opt-in texting system, and others are considering it. However, I wonder how they convince students to provide their cell phone numbers. (One of our consulting clients asks students to sign up when they apply for bus passes, which works quite well.)

The report made a connection between campus alerting and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) for mobile devices, although they got the name wrong. (Hey, folks, it’s not CMAS anymore.)  They said there may be a “silver bullet” via WEA where sign-ups are not required. The problem, they say, is that alerts through the national system would be sent to all of DC.  They may be right, but they also may be wrong. Some carriers send WEA messages to smaller areas. It’s hard to tell who does and where. Regardless, FEMA has started approving colleges as alerting authorities, as long as their states are OK with it. (By the way, Galain has recently announced that it will help colleges or local public safety with the FEMA alerting sign up process at no charge. Send an email to IPAWS@Galainsolutions.com).

The key, we believe, to campus alerting is no different from community alerting. Use as many channels as you can, and make those channels as strong as you can. Also, apply special initiatives and outreach to cover the gaps.

All the best,

Rick

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