Scott McGrath
Asking Users How They Want to Hear About Campus Issues

At a recent industry event, I had the great privilege of co-presenting with Joseph Brennan, Ph.D., the presenter of Rave’s upcoming webinar, “Alert! Best Practices in Emergency Notification”. 

Joe is Associate Vice President for University Communications at the University at Buffalo (UB).  He was a member of a large team at UB that performed an empirically-based study of emergency notification communications methods by taking the radical step of asking faculty, staff and students carefully constructed, direct questions about their specific communications preferences. The webinar will present these findings and discuss some of the implications of the research for university communications.

The results are quite fascinating and will be of strong interest to the education community when considering the different notification modalities that will most effectively communicate urgent and important messages to their campuses and communities. 

The study addresses questions around text messages/SMS communications, email, voice delivery, social networking-based notifications and more. Results also touch on how your communications strategy can enhance your participation model, whether you’ve chosen an opt-in, out-out or hybrid enrollment options. 

In addition, UB has recognized that while some trends appear clear among its unique campus population, they are making the raw materials of this study available to other institutions that might wish to reproduce the study and broaden the results by including other colleges and universities. Whether or not this is a study your institution might wish to duplicate, the results are certain to provide valuable input for the overall public safety communications agenda on your campus. 

The webinar is on Wednesday, June 20, 2012, at 2:00pm EDT. To register for the webinar, please follow this link

Alert Responses Can Be Uniquely Valuable

Rave has been a strong advocate of two-way text messaging from the outset. Some customers are surprised by the feature, and unclear about its value. But we’ve now seen several examples where responses to a notification can provide an unexpected and fortunate result.  

Responses are supported for many message types, but on a college campus the most accessible reply mechanism is simply to reply to a notification’s SMS text message. It’s easy: get a message, hit “reply” on your device, and send over a comment. These are instantly available in alert reporting. 

The Minnesota Daily is reporting today on how UMN’s “TXT-U” system was used to collect information from an on-campus assault. Reports the story:

University police sent a TXT-U alert describing the incident and the suspect, and students and staff called police with information in response. The callers saw the suspect at the Magrath Library on St. Paul campus and the University Recreation and Wellness Center, where police found him four hours after the incident.

[Deputy Police Chief Chuck] Miner said this is one of the first times the University’s TXT-U crime alert, which is primarily used to warn students about dangerous situations, had responses with information on the suspect.

“That was a nice use of [TXT-U] that we weren’t exactly intending on,” he said.

Another of our higher education customers had a flash flooding event during a summer recess, with nearly a foot of rain falling in an eight hour time span. In this case, students and faculty were trapped in buildings and texted back their locations as well as requests to have power cut to buildings with severe flooding problems for safety. As the customer noted, it’s not that this is the only channel for such feedback, but in the context of a typical general alerting scenario, it’s definitely possible that the immediate and open channel to your subscribers can produce instantaneous feedback of high value.

Two-way messaging can be a powerful tool when used in the full context of a multi-modal communications strategy. You want to use it along with other ways to collect feedback - 911, the phone system, text tip hotlines, and more - but the immediacy of the text message and the ease of reply make two-way texting an open and discreet communication channel for your campus community. Make sure your notification vendor supports this feature.

See the full article at

Related Story: 

New Vendor for Emergency Text Alerts

Interesting document from the World Health Organization on how to develop emergency drills. A lot of planning is involved whatever the scope of your drill; emergency managers in particular may find this PDF document interesting.

This article notes that severe weather events are here to stay, and emphasizes the “Weather Ready Nation" preparedness program of the NOAA. Sometimes it pays to look hard at the obvious to find new ways to think about risk management and disaster preparation. 

FCC Moving to a Leadership Position on Public Safety and 9-1-1


The FCC is seemingly taking an increasingly active (and welcome) role in 9-1-1 lately.  Their active role in identifying both interim and long term texting to 9-1-1 solutions, yesterday’s announcement on more stringent wireless location accuracy requirements, and Admiral Barnett, Chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau’s recent emphasis statement that “one of the FCC’s primary statutory obligations is to promote the safety of life and property” all demonstrate a refreshingly clear commitment to action on critical public safety issues. 

Read More

Using Eyewitness and Rave Guardian to enhance public safety at Framingham State University. 

A very strange and mysterious story, and sympathies to the family of Officer Crouse. 

"Emergency planning and preparedness really needs to begin to incorporate the risks from climate change," Dr. Kim Knowlton said in a question-and-answer session during the launch. Knowlton is a senior scientist with the Health and Environment Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council who helped develop the NRDC mapping tool.

"We can improve that kind of planning and that kind of emergency preparedness by taking the effects of climate change into account," Knowlton said. "That’s beginning to happen in some areas, but it really needs to become standard operating procedure, because we know climate change is here, and the effects are here."