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Section 5 Communications and Warnings

Section 5 - Communications and Warnings

5.1 Record of Changes

The Emergency Management Specialist is responsible for distributing all revised or updated planning documents to all departments, agencies and individuals tasked in those documents.

Date of Change

Change(s) Entered By

Date Entered

Summary of Changes

Enter Date

Enter Person

Enter Date

Enter Summary

5.2 Community Notification

Provide information to the community is crucial to the management of an emergency. This requires a process that makes effective use of the university general and emergency communication tools. In an emergency, these tools are designed to provide critical information and instructions to the community in a manner that informs without causing panic. The university emergency communications procedures also provide the mechanism for internal communication between first responders and EMT members and the president and provost.

General communication tools include email, websites and university-controlled social media. Emergency communication tools, such as the Everbridge communications system, allow university students and staff to receive email, text and cellular and hardwired telephone notification of emergencies on campus. Staff and student can also download Alertus Desktop Notification, which allows messages to be sent directly to user’s computer screens.

The university has designated three levels of threat to determine the communication tools used to inform and direct the community. These designated levels are potential, imminent and active threats.

5.3 Potential Threat

A potential threat is an incident where the conditions are favorable for the development of a threat to the university such as an event that happens off-campus that is likely to have an impact on the university at some point in the near future. Examples of a potential threat include a tornado watch, an approaching blizzard, a fire or hazardous material incident near campus. Communications regarding this type of emergency informs the community about the potential threat and the general precautionary steps to mitigate the effect of the threat.

Typically, information regarding a potential threat will be sent by the EMT chair or designee and will use university-controlled email, websites and social media.

5.4 Imminent Threat

An imminent threat is an event likely to pose a serious threat to the university with little or no advanced notice. Examples include a report of a gas leak on or near campus or the notification of a tornado warning indicating atmospheric conditions exist for the formation of tornadoes in our area.

Depending on lead time before the occurrence of an imminent threat, information may be provided by the EMT chair, or designee, or UPD. These types of incidents will result in the use of university email, websites, social media, Everbridge and Alertus Desktop notifications to inform the community. The communications associated with an imminent threat will provide specific information about the threat and general precautions and recommended actions.

5.5 Active Threat

An active threat is usually a spontaneous event that comes without warning, requiring immediate action to prevent the loss of life. Examples include a hazardous materials incident that poses an immediate threat to life, a tornado warning indicating a tornado has been reported in the area or an incident where a firearm or other weapon has been used to cause injury or displayed with intent to harm. For active threats, all elements of the emergency communication system are activated. This notification will provide direct instructions to the community to mitigate the effects of the incident.

The variety of threats we may encounter and the dynamic nature of all threats demonstrates the need to provide the above listed information as guidelines and not universal communications responses. For example, a tornado warning may be an imminent or active threat depending on the nature of the warning. Similarly, the documented report of a person with a weapon on or near campus may require community notification as an imminent, or active, threat to the university.

In an active threat situation and in some imminent threat situations, the first notification of an emergency provided by UPD may be received by university senior administration and EMT members at the same time the communication is received by the university community. When this occurs, available EMT members should be prepared to respond to the primary or backup EOC location. The EMT chair or designee will identify and respond to the EOC to manage its operations.

The EMT chair, or designee, will determine the need for and level of EMT/EOC activation and will communicate that information to other EMT members. It is the responsibility of the EMT chair or designee to notify and maintain communications with the president and provost.

5.6 Timely Warnings, Emergency Notifications and Other Notifications

The university emergency communications protocol is consistent with the federal Clery Act legislation regarding timely warnings, emergency notifications and other notifications. The Chair of the EMT, or designee, in consultation with the appropriate, is responsible for initiating Timely Warnings, Emergency Notifications and Other Notifications to the campus community. Notifications will be issued and shall be continually updated until it has been determined the threat is contained or ended.

  • A timely warning will be provided to the university community when a Clery Act crime is reported on University Clery geography, and reported to campus security authorities, UPD or local law enforcement and poses a serious or continuing threat to students and employees, as soon as pertinent information is available.  The Chair of the EMT, or designee, upon consultation with the designated units as appropriate, will issue a Timely Warning.  It will be provided to the University community via campus-wide email and posting on the University’s webpages.
  • An emergency notification is issued without hesitation upon the confirmation of a significant or dangerous situation involving an imminent or active threat to health or safety, unless the Emergency Notification will compromise efforts to assist a victim, contain the incident or otherwise mitigate the emergency.  Notification will be sent using the University emergency communications system.  Information will also be displayed on official University webpages and social media.
  • In addition to timely warnings and emergency notifications, the university—at its discretion—may provide information to the university community when an incident does not meet the threshold for a timely warning or an emergency notification. Other notifications may use email, webpage or other formats determined by the University.  Notification will provide sufficient information to inform individuals of threat, safety or security needs.

Decisions to issue a Timely Warning, Emergency Notification or Other Notification to the University community shall be made on a case-by-case basis dependent on the nature of the incident and the continuing danger to the campus community.  In criminal cases, information will be provided to the extent possible without compromising law enforcement efforts.

See university policy 10:3 Community notification, Imminent or Active Threat to the University.

5.7 Internal Communications

The ability to effectively communicate internally during an incident is crucial to the management of an incident. Any EMT member, senior administrators or university community members may initiate communications regarding potential, imminent or active threats to the community. EMT or community members who become aware of an active threat are directed to call the UPD immediately. The EMT chair or designee is responsible for determining the need for and scope of EMT/EOC activation and notifying the president and provost of such activation.

If the incident does not require a specific response by first responders and therefore no incident command post or incident commander at a scene, the EMT chair or designee is the incident commander for the university and the EOC is the university’s incident command post. If the incident requires an incident command post at or near the scene of the incident, the on-site incident commander will, as soon as practical, establish communications with the EOC. This person is the university incident commander.

It is the responsibility of the university emergency management specialist to ensure phone lines exist and are operational in the primary and backup EOCs. EMT/EOC members and support personnel will use cellphone, email, two-way radios, and runners if necessary to ensure effective internal communications. The emergency management specialist will work with University Marketing and Communications to ensure the ability to send messages to the SDSU community.

5.8 Public Information

Public information during an incident serves many important functions. It can:

  • Save lives and reduce injury. Knowing the proper protective actions to take enables people to reduce their risk.
  • Protect property and the environment. Understanding how to mitigate risk to property and the environment may lessen the damage inflicted by disasters. 
  • Facilitate the tactical response by calming fears and managing expectations. People who know what to expect are more likely to follow instructions and allow responders to do their jobs.
  • Educate, inform, and change behavior and attitudes. An educated public is more likely to prepare for emergencies and be ready when they occur.
  • Seek the public’s cooperation. Whether the need is for volunteers to help with sandbagging, citizens to cooperate with investigators or residents to evacuate their homes, public information is an instrument that can help make it happen.
  • Instill public confidence. Providing timely, accurate and understandable information builds confidence in emergency management’s competence.
  • Provide information to help families reunite.  Public information about shelter message boards, hotlines, survivor registries and other linkages can help reunite families and enable them to move forward with their recover. 

With the exception of emergency notifications provided by the UPD, all messages to the community and the media—including media interviews—will be the responsibility of, coordinated and approved by the EMT.

University Marketing and Communications serves as the authorized public information officer (PIO) for the university. All public information must be coordinated and disseminated by the UMC staff with the approval of the EMT, in consultation with the president and provost.

University policy requires that only approved individuals speak on behalf of the university. These spokespersons are designated by the president, provost or designee. UMC is responsible for spokesperson coordination with the media.

UMC is responsible for establishing and staffing media staging, work and briefing areas. In the event that regular telecommunications on university property are not available, UMC will coordinate media relations at a designated location.