Troy U. strengthens communications
Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 5, 2007
Text messaging, the Internet and an outdoor public address system are all parts of a new plan Troy University officials are preparing to strengthen the campus communication system during a time of crisis.
Herbert Reeves, dean of student services, said campus officials held a meeting on Monday to discuss details of the new crisis response plan, which will be presented to the Board of Trustees on May 17.
The renewed emphasis on campus security comes in the wake of last month's massacre of 32 people at Virginia Tech by student gunman Cho Seung-Hui.
Reeves said the event has spurred universities across the nation to rethink security measures and crisis response planning.
“I'd say that 90 to 95 percent of all college campuses are just wide open – you can drive on them at any time of the day,” Reeves said. “I think this event is, in a lot of places, going to change how we look at things and how we do business. I don't think we've gotten to the point that we're ready to throw a net over the whole campus and close it, but we do want to look at what our vulnerabilities are.”
Communication is one the most heavily revamped areas under the new plan. Troy is preparing to initiate several new systems to improve communication during an emergency, including e2campus, a software program that can send thousands of text messages simultaneously to cell phones of students and parents. Reeves said the university would begin signing students up for that program this summer.
The school also will be installing a wi-fi bullhorn system that can broadcast an audible message across the campus, and officials are considering installing monitors inside academic buildings that can display messages.
Reeves said the new system will improve the university's ability to distribute emergency information on the campus, but plans also are being discussed to get more information out to the public. The school is looking to establish an emergency Web site, sos.Troy.edu, and an emergency call center to get information to people off the campus as the crisis unfolds.
New policies also are being discussed to ensure that accurate information is dispersed to media outlets. Reeves said the school is taking the approach that too much information is better than not enough.
“I'd venture to say that we will err on the side of caution in the future and try to give more information rather than not enough,” Reeves said. “I'm not trying to criticize Virginia Tech in any way … but I think what we learned from that situation is you've got to go ahead and get the information out there.”
Part of the university's new crisis planning calls for establishing a campus safety week each year, during which a campuswide safety drill would be carried out and special emphasis would be placed on discussing safety procedures.
Such polices likely will be the norm throughout higher education post-Virginia Tech, and Reeves said he thinks parents and students will be expecting universities to be prepared when and if disaster strikes.
“I think all of this is going to be well-received,” Reeves said. “Campus safety is going to be on the minds of everyone as we begin the new year. Parents are going to be asking what we are doing to keep their sons and daughters safe. I think we are doing everything we can.”