Evacuation lessons learned

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On March 27, 2014

Following the Feb. 26 evacuation of campus due to a gas line rupture, the S&T Crisis Communications Team conducted a survey of students, faculty and staff regarding the communications process. The team also convened a meeting of several campus individuals involved in the evacuation process to discuss the incident. The survey results and process review both provided valuable insights into how to improve communications during such an incident. Some of the lessons learned are listed here.

  •  The time from learning of the leak to notifying campus was quick. Campus officials first learned of the leak at approximately 10:02 a.m. and the first mass notification to campus was sent out at 10:18 a.m.
  • The “cycle time” for receiving mass notifications varies. During emergencies, the mass notification system (MNS) is used to send out email, text messages and phone messages. In this instance, recipients received email notification within 2 minutes, but it took longer for text and phone notifications to reach recipients.
  • Because email notification is almost instantaneous – 100 percent of messages were sent via email in 2 minutes – the campus is investigating the possibility of creating a pop-up email notification on all classroom computers so that instructors are quickly notified of an emergency.
  • There are “dead spots” on campus where cell and phone reception is difficult. The campus is looking into ways to address this issue.
  • During times of campus and network outages, the university’s emergency alert website should be accessible. Plans are now under way to move the alert website to an off-campus server to minimize disruption.

Overall, the survey results showed that the notification and evacuation procedures worked well.

Regarding the timeliness of the emergency notifications, the majority (65 percent) of survey respondents considered the notifications to be timely. On a 5-point scale, with 5 being the highest score, 34 percent ranked timeliness a 5 and 31 percent a 4.

Regarding the informative nature of the notifications, 34 percent said the notifications were “extremely informative” (a 5 on the 5-point scale), while 37 percent gave the notifications a score of 4 on the scale and 20 percent a 3 (average).

Regarding the evacuation itself, 58 percent gave the process a score of 4 or 5 (21 percent rated the process a 5 on the 5-point scale and 37 percent a 4).


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On March 27, 2014. Posted in Announcements