Initially established to bring increased transparency to campus crime reporting following the death of Jeanne Clery, a nineteen-year-old woman killed while on a college campus, the Clery Act has expanded significantly since its inception in 1990.

The Clery Act provides many prescriptive requirements related to the collection and publishing of crime statistics, safety and security policies, and necessities related to emergency preparedness. In 2008, the Higher Education Opportunity Act widened the scope of the Clery Act to include emergency response and notification provisions. Among the elements included in the expansion, issuing emergency alerts to the campus community continues to receive significant attention from institutions across the US. While the Clery Act doesn’t require an institution to use a particular mode of communication for emergency alerting, it does encourage the use of overlapping means of notification.

Similar to other large higher education institutions, the University of Miami has multiple campuses spread across different law enforcement jurisdictions. However, the University uses a single platform, Rave Alert, a mass notification technology from Rave Mobile Safety, to issue emergency alerts with critical life-safety information through multiple methods of communication to the entire University community.

The complexities within the emergency response and communication portion of the Clery Act can be daunting, but the following are some of the best practices we’ve built on over the years to ensure compliance and maximize use of our alerting system:

1. Standardize Procedures

Maintaining institutionally standardized procedures is a critical step in ensuring the safety of any campus community and maintaining compliance with the Clery Act.

When large-scale emergencies occur at the University of Miami, they are classified as either “immediate” or “potentially” life-threatening. This initial classification is based on several factors including, but not limited to, incident type, area(s) impacted, details provided by the reporter and relationship of the reporter to the incident. Rapidly classifying the incident allows the University to initiate a response commensurate with the threat level.

After classifying the incident, on-duty police and public safety communications operators determine whether an emergency alert must be immediately issued. Having clear, concise, and actionable information is critical when communicating to a large population across multiple channels.

For incidents that create an immediate threat to life-safety, communications operators are empowered to launch an entirely pre-scripted alert that is consistent with the nature of the incident. From past incidents, we have learned that these communications operators play an all too critical role in multiple high stress and time sensitive aspects of the initial response.

By providing them with the ability to activate a fully pre-scripted alert, we ensure that the message is issued in a timely manner and minimize the opportunity for errors in the content of the alert.

(Next page: 2 more steps to Clery Act Compliance)

About the Author:

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


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