Crisis team preparing new ways to alert Wake Forest to emergencies
August 30, 2007
Wake Forest University will start this fall using new ways to alert its Reynolda Campus students, faculty and staff to emergencies and crises, including sending text and voice messages to their cell phones, using the campus cable TV system to display written messages on campus TV screens, and setting off a new steam whistle bought especially for such situations.
More communication methods are being studied, including alert systems inside buildings, voice notification systems outdoors and the expanded use of messages on video monitors throughout the campus.
Immediately after the Virginia Tech tragedy last spring, Wake Forest President Nathan O. Hatch directed the university’s Crisis Management Team to begin an extensive, detailed review of the university’s emergency preparedness measures, including the university’s methods for communicating with students, faculty and staff in the event of a crisis or emergency.
Kenneth Zick, vice president for student life, sent an e-mail to students, faculty and staff Aug. 30 to update them on the Crisis Management Team’s progress.
"Our goal this summer was to establish enhanced mass notification systems and procedures to alert the community in the event of a significant crisis or emergency,” Zick announced. The team will address other related issues in the months ahead, including the systems presently employed to lock campus buildings and rooms.
Wake Forest has been using primarily voice mail and e-mail, as well as the university’s Web site, to alert the university community in certain crisis or emergency situations. The university will continue using those systems, while gradually adding the new methods.
The university is collecting cell phone numbers from students, faculty and staff so that text messages and voice messages may be sent to their cell phones. Undergraduate students provided those numbers at the start of the semester. Faculty and staff members and graduate and professional school students will be asked in September to provide the numbers through the university’s Web site. For faculty and staff, providing a cell phone number will be optional.
In a few weeks, Wake Forest will be able to use a new steam whistle intended “to alert the community to an imminent emergency of significant risk to the entire campus community,” Zick wrote. When the campus community hears the whistle, they should promptly begin looking for warnings through voice mail, e-mail and the university Web site. If the cell phone messaging system has been activated by that point, a message will be sent.
The alerts on TVs connected to the campus cable system will appear as written messages on the screen when people are watching television. The exact date this year for implementing the cable TV alerts has not been determined, yet.
The Crisis Management Team has drawn on a variety of information sources looking for the best ways to bolster communication during emergencies.
"In developing our enhanced notification processes, university staff have reviewed recent literature including governmental reports, consulted with other universities, met with vendors, attended conferences, and studied the experience of Virginia Tech in responding to its tragedy,” Zick wrote.