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How to Draft and Deliver Emergency Messages - Campus Safety

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The Campus Safety Yearbook - HOW-TO Guide
How to Draft and Deliver
Emergency Messages
Create Them Ahead of Time
Keep Messages Short and Clear
A phone message should be easily understood, concise and to the point. Most experts believe it should be
30 words or less and include the date, time and identification of the trusted source sending the alert. The message may also need to be translated into other languages
so non-English speakers can understand the information
being conveyed.
SMS (text) messages should be limited to 160 characters or less, otherwise the message might be delivered
in installments by the cell carrier. If an emergency text
alert is being sent to a large number of people, the time
between installments could be several precious minutes.
A lot could happen during that time.
Repeat Audible Announcements
During emergencies, the stress and commotion of an
incident often limit people’s ability to comprehend an
announcement. Because of this, an audible emergency
message must be repeated clearly several times. They
must also be short and translated into other languages
when appropriate.
campus safety Yearbook 2010
The time to write the text of most emergency messages
is not when a crisis is happening. Except when there are
unusual circumstances, hospital, school and university
officials are aware of most of the emergencies they could
face, so they should be able to write beforehand most of
the initial announcements sent to campus constituents.
The messages should address hazardous weather
events (e.g. tornados, hurricanes, ice storms), natural
disasters (e.g. earthquakes, wildfires), evacuations, active
shooter incidents, shelter in place, all clear, system tests,
Hazmat incidents, fires, contaminated water problems and
other potential emergencies. In most cases, the only information that should be written at the time of the emergency should be things like the location of the incident.
The wording of emergency alerts should be vetted
prior to an emergency by the campus communications
department so they can confirm the information is appropriate and understandable. When a crisis calls for a
message to be created on the fly — which could very
well be the case as a situation progresses — be certain
the person crafting it has been trained how to write an
effective emergency alert. He or she should also be wellrehearsed in creating a message under pressure.
Canned emergency messages should be vetted by the campus
communications department. This ensures the information is clear
and appropriate.
Don’t Send Spam Text Notifications
Emergency text messages should only be sent when
there is a dynamic, life-threatening emergency or for a
planned testing of the system. Sending non-emergency
text alerts alienates message recipients and leads to an
increase in system opt-outs. Non-emergency messages
should be sent via E-mail or other method.
Having clear definitions of what constitutes an emergency also helps. Many campuses have identified different levels of alerts and the mass notification methods
that should be used to deliver those alerts.
Have Your Web Site Ready
Although most emergency alert systems only convey short announcements, students, faculty and staff
should receive training before an emergency so they
know to find additional incident information on the institution’s Web site or toll-free hotline. These methods
also provide information to the general public who are
not in harm’s way.
For examples of text and audible emergency
В­announcements, visit www.CampusSafetyMagazine.
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