Nov. 26, 2007
By George Mauzy
Ohio University has added two more pieces to its emergency communication toolbox: an emergency-information Web site and a call-in number.
The new emergency information Web site, www.ohio.edu/emergency, was designed to bring all types of emergency information into one place.
Let it snow, but let us know
As the heart of the winter weather season approaches, it's time to dust off the university snow emergency policy, in case we experience more than a dusting of snow.
As established in Ohio University policy 40.051, the president or his designee determines if the university will close or experience delays in an emergency. The president has granted regional campus deans the same authority at their respective campuses in an emergency.
The Athens campus is automatically closed when the Athens County Sheriff's Office declares a level-3 weather emergency in the county, and only essential service employees are permitted to travel to work. Closures on regional campuses may vary.
In the case of a closure, the university immediately notifies media outlets and posts the status to the main university home page and www.ohio.edu/emergency. It also keeps these sources updated with developments.
The emergency page will contain basic closure information for all campuses but may direct viewers to other sources of information when necessary. Also note that although media may report that Ohio University is closed, you should check other sources to make certain the closure pertains to your campus.
Other resources to find closing or delay information are the Ohio University emergency hotline at 740-597-1800 and CATVision (the Athens campus in-house cable television system).
During an incident that could affect the safety, security or functioning of an Ohio University campus, the emergency page will be the go-to place for timely news and updates.
At all other times, the emergency site will contain links to useful emergency and safety information, ranging from advice on what to do if there's an active shooter on campus, to preparing for emergencies, to reporting behavior of concern. It also will carry relevant information and news highlights.
"Right now we have information on how students can sign up for emergency text messaging. At another time we might post tips, new information or announcements related to emergency preparedness," said Senior Director of Media Relations Sally Linder, a member of the Critical Incident Response Team committee that put the site together. "It's a site people will want to keep tabs on."
Another new tool is the emergency information hotline accessible at 740-597-1800, or 7-1800 from an Athens campus phone. A prerecorded message will give callers a brief, recorded status report on an active emergency, campus closure or other critical incident.
"These are just two more ways that our campus community can get to information if anything serious is happening on campus," Linder says. "You need a good variety of methods, because no one or two communication tools will reach everyone."
Other campus emergency communication methods include student text messaging, alerts that can run on all campus cable television stations, campus-wide e-mail and non-technical methods, such as bullhorns, flyers and on-the-ground teams. The university also is well down the path in identifying a mass outdoor voice notification system it can purchase and install in seven locations on the Athens campus.
CIRT, a diverse campus group of employees who meet regularly to plan and prepare to provide leadership, has been addressing emergency preparedness since last winter.
"This group is training, participating in exercises and planning so that the university is better equipped to address an incident, no matter what form it might take. It's an ongoing process -- one that we will never call done," Linder said.