2. Ensure Operational Readiness and Regular Testing

The testing of any piece of technology is critical to ensuring it remains operational.

Beyond testing to ensure the system is operational from a technical standpoint, there is a secondary and equally important reason to conduct regular tests: to ensure proficiency and comfort with the system for those individuals responsible for issuing an alert.

At the start of each shift, communications operators are required to launch an internal test message to a limited user group to ensure the operational readiness of the system, and to increase user familiarity with the interface. This is critically important for a system that’s used infrequently and must be rapidly activated during high stress incidents.

In addition to daily tests, we routinely conduct a full test of all methods of communication at least once a year. These full system tests ensure compliance with the Clery Act, verify the functionality of the alerting system, and keeps the University community aware of emergency alerting capabilities.

3. Crafting Custom Alerts Takes Unique Skills-Hone Them

Over the years, incidents at the University of Miami have helped us learn the best and most effective way to utilize our mass notification system.

When initially implementing Rave Alert, we quickly learned that creating a new emergency alert for every incident was inefficient and left too much room for error. A broad range of different alert templates were progressively developed based on the University of Miami’s hazard and threat profile.

However, incidents that occur with less frequency, and have greater complexity, create challenges with communicating simplified and actionable information to a university community; even when using a template alert. To improve response during these incidents, a select group of public safety and communications officials are regularly provided advance training, and are entrusted with rapidly crafting custom alerts to address the unique issues associated with more complex incidents.

Additionally, utilizing training mode in Rave Alert allows these officials to regularly conduct self-initiated and instructor-led drills without fear of activating a live alert.

No incident is the same, and our team relies on plans, procedures, and high levels of coordination to ensure the University is prepared to rapidly issue critical life-safety information to the community, in addition to adhering to the requirements established in the Clery Act.

About the Author:

Matthew Shpiner is the director of the Office of Emergency Management at the University of Miami.

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