Many students, parents, faculty, and even news organizations now turn to social media first during emergencies, sometimes in lieu of contacting the university outright.
When a Purdue University student shot a fellow student in January, CNN began reporting on the incident based on a tweet. Last fall, early news reports about a stabbing at Indiana University were just chronological listings of IU’s tweets about the incident.
Even as far back as the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech, students were able to gather the names of fellow students not responding to social media messages, primarily Facebook, and surmise who had been hurt or killed.
“They had a fairly accurate list of the victims in a short amount of time, when the university couldn’t release that information yet,” Piatt said.
When sending safety alerts to students, colleges and universities have a growing number of options. At this year’s ACUTA conference, nearly 20 exhibitors focused on emergency notification.
Alertus showcased small, flashing, wall-mounted displays, as well as a product that could send safety notifications to every computer on a campus network. RedSky offered cloud-based enhanced 911 services. That same week, Rave Mobile Safety announced that more than 1,000 campuses now use its software to send emergency notifications through social media, email, text messages, and phone calls.
Meanwhile, a mobile app called In Case of Crisis is proving popular on some campuses, providing students with a one-stop place to find safety notifications and instructions about what to do in an emergency.
“Bringing all that [information] together in one place, right there on your phone, is really an important step” in making a college campus more secure,” said Chris Britton, general manager of In Case of Crisis. “No one is going to have time in the heat of the moment to go and seek out the necessary steps for what they should do during an emergency situation.”
(Next page: The importance of a plan)
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