Cut through the clutter and improve safety – and communication – on your campus.
The 2020 coronavirus pandemic hit higher education particularly hard, shuttering college and university campuses across the country. Although the public health crisis continues to loom large in 2021, campus leaders now have the opportunity to reflect on their pandemic response and leverage key learnings to better manage future critical events.
Colleges are responsible for protecting their students, faculty and staff from threats and hazards – whether active assailants or natural disasters – and creating a safer community that fosters a positive experience. As a result, many campuses provide security and protocols to keep everyone safe, and threat assessment teams that track risks and determine how to respond have become ubiquitous.
However, there is only so much threat assessment teams can do to effectively analyze and rapidly respond to risk. Incorporating technology that enables fast, accurate communication and a thorough response plan for critical events is no longer an option – it’s a requirement. Here’s why.
Because We Learned Technology Lessons from the Pandemic
While the pandemic posed an unprecedented challenge, it wasn’t the first serious safety threat to college campuses. But it highlighted the importance of fast, reliable crisis communications and risk intelligence like never before.
Decision-makers now recognize they need an updated plan in place that includes any key learnings and promising practices from their pandemic response to date, such as ensuring messaging accuracy, communication preparedness and qualified crisis response teams. The plan should include a comprehensive critical communications system to avoid the confusion that resulted from inconsistent government communications during the early days of the pandemic.
Communication breakdown is the most significant issue that colleges face, as there often aren’t protocols in place for it. This is an issue that a critical communications system can solve by reaching students, staff and other stakeholders through sending simultaneous messages across go-to platforms (e.g., text messages, app notifications on phones, emails, etc.). Reaching students with the correct information is key in allowing them to make informed and quick decisions that positively impact their safety and wellbeing.
Universities can begin using critical communications technology by ensuring key stakeholders update their contact information, that all teams have a plan to enact once messages are received and crafting messages ahead of time that are relevant and easily understood. Once a plan is prepared and technology is ready, it must be tested and adopted by students, and by communities and residences where they live.
Because AI Enhances Risk Intelligence
Improving your response to critical events starts with a critical communications plan. The next step is to have a system that can predict and monitor critical events in real time. This enables key decision-makers to act quickly, reduces the impact an incident has on campus and informs additional communication and action plans to ensure faculty, staff and students are kept safe before, during and after an event. Campus administration and security officials can leverage critical event management platforms powered by AI and machine learning technology to ensure campus resiliency with an instantaneous, clear line of sight into developing critical events.
Threat assessment teams, such as law enforcement, communications, human resources or mental health and counseling teams, usually don’t have the bandwidth to sift through multiple state and county alerts about evolving critical events. They need information about what will impact their campus and people delivered straight to their phones or email. Armed with true intelligence, administrators and security officials can confidently take decisive action.
The sheer volume of available data makes it impossible to use traditional, manual methods to gather actionable intelligence that can identify critical events before or as they’re happening. Although threat intelligence teams remain an important part of critical response, technology is capable of filtering through the noise and supporting analysts and key decision-makers as they keep campuses safe and informed.
Because AI Can Help Maintain Clery Act Compliance
Campus response to critical events can have both legal and long-term implications. The Clery Act requires colleges to disclose incident information on and near campus, imposing penalties if universities fail to comply. Colleges are facing myriad challenges amid the pandemic, and in some cases, seeing rising crime rates. As a result, some law enforcement officials now believe that the guidelines of the Clery Act can be confusing and unintentionally harm universities, potentially making campuses appear less safe than they are.
However, the Clery Act’s guidelines have been key in providing guidance on how to keep students informed amidst the pandemic. The Act requires emergency alerts during events that pose a significant danger to the health or safety of a campus community – including disease outbreaks such as COVID-19. During the pandemic, colleges have been instructed to send continuous updates through alert systems, direct students to important information from health authorities, and have recommended a banner at the top of the institution’s homepage containing the same information.
Ultimately, critical communications technology will play a key role in helping universities remain Clery-compliant and get the necessary alerts out to relevant stakeholders to keep people safe and informed. Critical event management solutions continuously analyze and gather data, which can be turned into reports or leveraged during Clery Act disclosures, simplifying the reporting process.
Because Campus Safety Depends on Technology
While we’ve learned valuable lessons from the events of the past year, many challenges remain for colleges and universities seeking to ensure campus resiliency. As legal guidelines around both COVID-19 and crime reporting continue to evolve, technology is playing an increasingly important role in helping campuses stay safe.
To fully prepare for the next large-scale critical event, campuses need critical event management backed by AI-powered technology. Disasters don’t wait, and neither should your college or university. Now’s the time to create a robust plan and leverage technology to create a safer educational experience for your students, staff, faculty and surrounding communities.