New Campus Emergency Communication Plan Launched
Dennis Sercombe Editor
In light of the increasing number of crises affecting college campuses and the critical need for comprehensive and rapid communication, Longwood University has implemented a multi-faceted emergency communication plan with the beginning of the 2007-08 academic year.
Three new communication systems – text messaging, voice messaging, and a public address / siren warning system – are designed to communicate promptly with faculty, staff, and students in the event of an emergency. These systems are an integral part of Longwood’s Emergency Operations Plan and Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) and will complement existing communication tools including e-mail and web page announcements and can be used simultaneously.
“Following a complete evaluation of our plan, we decided to enhance our existing systems with these additional measures in order to ensure comprehensive and effective communication with faculty, staff, and students,” said Dr. Frank Moore, vice president of information and instructional technology services. “We feel confident in this plan which offers simultaneous communication via three independent systems.”
Longwood’s text messaging system is provided by Roam Secure which can transmit 18,000 text messages within one minute. Two remote servers host the system. For the 2007 fall semester, Longwood students were required to submit cell phone numbers by August 31. For subsequent semesters, students must verify cell phone information two weeks prior to registration for each term. If the information has not been reviewed and verified by the student, a hold will be placed on the student’s account prohibiting registration. Faculty and staff cell phone numbers will also be placed into the system.
The public address / warning siren system will transmit voice messages or warning sirens. The use of voice is considered critical as clear instructions can be given and does not rely upon the campus community to identify the meaning of various siren tones. Messages are written in advance and pre-approved. Directional speakers are mounted centrally around campus with a computer control station in the dispatch office of the Longwood University Police Department. Speakers and sirens are also located at Longwood’s off-campus apartment complexes (Lancer Park and Longwood Village) and the athletic fields at Johnston Drive.
The Town of Farmville, which has implemented voice messaging through the Honeywell Instant Alert system, has provided the voice messaging capability to Longwood free of charge. This system transmits voice messages that are either recorded or translated from typed text and can be used to place voice telephone calls to campus telephones as well as cellular telephones. Voice transmissions are typically slower than data transmissions, such as text messaging; however, there are situations when voice messaging may be appropriate.
Longwood has also launched a special web site for use during critical incidents. The Crisis / Emergency Communication Center web site can be activated when needed and can also appear in a static position on the homepage during a crisis. The site will include the latest information about a particular incident, along with helpful links to such sites as the Longwood University Police Department, the Student Health and Wellness Center, the Environmental Health and Safety office, the Department of Homeland Security, the American Red Cross, The Weather Channel, and others.