Emergency Notifications in Higher Education: Making the Right Choice
March 17, 2021
Nobody sets out with the intention of becoming embroiled in an emergency situation. Nor does a business or higher education provider willingly open the door to disaster. Unfortunately, it is commonplace for potential risks to be underestimated or overlooked entirely in many educational settings. Should a dangerous event or emergency occur, the outcome will be determined almost entirely by the extent to which it was anticipated and planned for.
This is where emergency notification systems in higher education can be a priceless commodity. Important information distributed at the right time can help anyone who may be affected by the incident get themselves and others out of harm’s way.
But what is important to acknowledge where emergency notification systems are concerned is the uniqueness of each organization’s requirements. As no two higher education settings are identical, the same should also apply with emergency notification systems.
In which case, what needs to be taken into account when choosing an emergency notification system for higher education facility? How can you be sure that the ENS you choose will be adequate to your requirements, should the unexpected occur?
Selecting an Emergency Notification System: Carefully Consider the Size of Your Campus
Campus size should be factored in at an early stage, along with the extent to which system alerts and responses can be segmented where necessary. College campuses vary enormously in size – anything from a few scattered buildings to enormous facilities occupying 15,000 acres or more. Likewise, the number of people (students, staff, faculty members, family etc.) must also be carefully considered. While some perfectly capable emergency notification systems are perfect for smaller schools, they do not have the capacity to cover more extensive campuses.
Prioritize Simplicity and Ease of Use
It is important to bear in mind that an ENS is not something that tends to be used very often. This means that should a future scenario necessitate its use; it needs to be as uncomplicated and easy to use as possible. Some of the clunkier ENS solutions of years gone by left much to be desired where user friendliness was concerned. Today, the most streamlined systems available are comprehensively easy to operate, with little to no formal training required.
Assess the Security of the System
Cybercriminals are pretty ruthless when it comes to the institutions, they are willing to attack to achieve their aim. Higher education businesses and those who populate them are by no means excluded. In fact, private data held on students, staff, parents and faculty members has a tendency to be a prime target for hackers. When introducing an emergency notification system, therefore, it is important to prioritize data security. An ENS represents another collective data hub that could be an appealing target for cyber criminals, therefore needs to be safeguarded accordingly.
Smooth and Seamless Integration with Other Systems
It is not possible for an emergency notification system to function efficiently or even adequately as a standalone addition to the organization’s existing applications, databases an on-campus system. Smooth and seamless integration with your existing systems is therefore essential, which again is something that differs from one solution to the next. Ideally, all relevant tools, databases and applications should be able to communicate with one another seamlessly and securely. This will also ensure the smooth and disruption-free adoption of the system in the first place.
Hierarchical Access to Features and Functions
A highly effective ENS that is also largely automated can be a godsend. However, human input will always be necessary for performing a variety of key functions. This is where the ability to assign different levels of system accessibility to different members of staff is essential. As with all important software suites and IT systems, nobody should be able to access the features and functionalities they don’t absolutely need to access. Otherwise, the risk of malicious activity or potentially dangerous user error is increased.
Professional Recommendations and Evidence of Effectiveness
Of course, one of the best ways of establishing the effectiveness and appropriateness of an ENS is to seek recommendations from similar businesses or professional bodies. All major emergency notification systems and their providers are laid bare online in the form of reviews, ratings and detailed bisections by those using them. Asking the provider directly to give references and show examples of their systems can also be helpful.
Featured Image: Carlos Martinez, Unsplash.