Larry Gilbert is the Vice President and Chief Information Officer for California State University, Sacramento and he oversees mission-critical campus communications that keep students and faculty safe. “Incidents like the Virginia Tech tragedy require campuses to put serious attention and resources into campus communications capacity,” he said. “We have the ability to craft a single message and interface in very specific ways with every student, faculty and staff member on campus.”
Students arrive to college campuses equipped with smartphones and tablets; they are adept at managing their own communications. For parents it is important to know that your child will be well informed about what is happening on campus in the event of an emergency.
According to Gilbert, when there is a crisis or an event, it creates more problems when the communications lines are overloaded with people calling in and out to find out about what is happening, “We require students to give personal contact information for emergencies. We have tested our system and it is working well,” he said. “In the event of an incident, our alerts go to all channels, including desk top computers in labs, email and text accounts, and social media.”
Sanjay Mandanhar, CEO of Aerva, a cloud-based software communications platform for campuses, is in the business of helping college campus administrations connect with their student bodies for a variety of reasons. “Context specific information is important,” he said. “You want to keep information relevant and useful for every ‘user’ on campus in every situation.”
Accordingly, Mandanhar who recently announced Babson College as a new client, stresses that it is important for students and faculty to opt in and out of non-mission-critical communications, and to stream relevant information to the places where it is needed, such as menu boards, campus event information or weather forecasts.
Topics that give students a “heads up” to be better prepared:
- Updates and direction for a crisis or emergency
- Clear up threat rumors (suspicious packages found on campus, etc.)
- Weather updates
- Upcoming Campus Events
- Warnings about criminal activity near by the campus
- Messages from professors concerning class assignments
- Department updates for every major, etc.
Gilbert wants parents to know that Sacramento State is prepared to keep the campus community and the general media well informed if there is an act of fear on campus. “We have a fully functional, robust communications system to help keep people well informed,” he said.
And there can be a measure of comfort and peace of mind knowing that in the event of crisis students and their parents can expect timely, accurate updates until resolution.