Saturday, December 5, 2009

Newspaper reports on Virginia Tech tragedy show a need for administrators to develop a better emergency response plan

If a crazed gunman was holding students hostage in a lecture hall, doesn't it make sense that university employees would try to reach their children who were students? And, certainly, I would make sure that garbage collectors would want to know now to come on campus to collect our trash.
Today's Express-News article on the Virginia Tech tragedy shows how most of us who are parents would react. Yet, it also shows that college administrators don't really think through their emergency communications programs here.
If I was a president of an educational institution who read the published report of this article, I would want to gather my security forces, my communications professionals and my public affairs team to have them create a way to communicate to students on an assortment of emergncies such as crazed gunmen or if there's a blizzard that could shut down the roads near college.
For those educational administrators who want some unsolicited advice, I would first ask my public affairs professionals to create a Twitter site that addresses emergency responses. For inspiration, I would look at the Center for Disease Control Emergnecy Twitter site as a source of inspiration.
I would also invest in a phone texting service that can also alert all students of pending emergencies. And, after both are in place, I would instruct professors and staff to make sure to spend a couple of minutes every semester to remind their students of all emergency communication methods.
After all of those tools are in place, I would gather my security chief, my head computer person in charge of computers and phones along with my public affairs team to hold emergency simulation exercises at least three to four times a year. As an Air Force professional who planned these training exercises, I can tell you that practice of these emergency principles helps an executive team improve their response if needed.

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