Critical Event Management, Higher Education

Build Your Campus Safety Strategy This September with Critical Event Management

By Shannon Gallo

September is National Campus Safety Awareness Month (NCSAM), making it a good time to review what administrators can do to protect their campuses, students and staff. Because although crime on college campuses has declined by 16 percent since 2009, it remains a critical concern for institutions of higher learning. In 2018, for example, there were 28,500 criminal incidents against persons and property on campuses of postsecondary institutions reported to police and security agencies.

Further, as a result of the Clery Act, higher education institutions now have legal obligations to alert the campus community when crimes occur. The Clery Act requires colleges to disclose incident information both on and near campus, and failure to comply can result in penalties. As the number of college students increases (undergraduate enrollment is projected to increase to 17.4 million students by 2027), it’s logical that campus-related crimes will too.

Modern technology – specifically a critical event management (CEM) platform – assists in preventing, responding and recovering from events such as criminal trespassing, inter-relationship violence and active shooter incidents. Let’s take a look at how two CEM capabilities – risk intelligence and critical communications – work together to help establish and maintain a safe and healthy campus and help higher education institutions fulfill their obligations under the Clery Act.

Improve Accuracy and Reliability with Risk Intelligence

Most colleges and universities today have a mix of in-person and remote learners. Trying to keep all students and staff safe regardless of location can seem like a daunting task. CEM solutions that utilize AI-powered risk intelligence (RI) make it easier to protect remote and on-campus individuals.

Risk intelligence collects and analyzes complex streams of data from thousands of sources, including the CDC, local TV stations, newspapers and social media. Artificial intelligence is used to clean and classify the data according to the type of critical event. Contextual clues within the data are identified to pinpoint the exact location of an event, so you only receive information that’s relevant to your campus and student body.

Natural language processing can even determine the exact time an event took place, providing extremely detailed and reliable information about events impacting some or all of your students and staff. Administrators can act swiftly and appropriately, rapidly alerting the people who need to act or respond to a specific critical event. It’s even possible to assign severity levels to critical events to quickly determine when response plans and alerts should be activated.

Let’s take an example of a potential active shooter on campus. Response teams need to be notified immediately in this scenario, and campuses also need to coordinate and notify emergency responders off-campus. With risk intelligence, all information is cross-checked across multiple channels for improved accuracy. This prevents reactive decision-making based on rumors or inaccurate social media posts.  

Risk intelligence rapidly checks the data and alerts the appropriate personnel, so the decision-making process can move forward quickly and effectively. Depending on where individuals are at the time of the event, they need to receive certain instructions to keep them safe. This is where critical communications come into play.

Critical Communications – The Link that Connects Everyone

A primary capability of a CEM platform is the ability to send critical communications in the form of mass notifications. Critical communications are the means by which targeted, time-sensitive information is sent to every person in a given sphere of impact – a step crucial to fulfilling a school’s obligations under the Clery Act.

In the active shooter example above, a mass notification system can relay both the details of the critical event and instructions for how to say safe. An alert can be sent to students and staff outside the impacted area stating: “Gunshots were heard on the east side of campus at 3:17 p.m. today. Until further notice, avoid that section of campus.” A separate alert can be sent to individuals within the danger zone: “Gunshots were heard in your section of campus at 3:17 p.m. today. At this time, proceed immediately to the Smith Building and mark yourself safe when you arrive by clicking this button. Further instructions will be forthcoming.”

In real life, a certain amount of fear and panic will accompany most critical events. Heightened emotions can cause people to rush, which leads to preventable injuries.  By acknowledging and preparing for this reality, campus administration can minimize trauma and help prevent chaos from escalating. The key is to establish a reliable method of delivering facts and clear, actionable instructions.

A modern CEM platform does just that – enabling you to reach students, faculty, vendors and any other stakeholders on campus. Everyone receives the message instantly on their preferred device. Be sure the messaging platform includes targeting capability, so the right message gets to the right people at the right time – and that only impacted individuals receive alerts.

Campus safety is always a priority for colleges and universities. But this month, we’re reminded to take a step back and make sure we’re doing everything we can to keep students out of harm’s way.

A CEM platform that integrates risk intelligence and critical communications arms colleges and universities with relevant and targeted information and the ability to notify and direct impacted individuals quickly.

Request a demo to see how the OnSolve® Platform for Critical Event Management provides the speed and reliability needed to protect your campus.