Emergency Alert Policy Is Revised

Published 4:32 pm Thursday, January 5, 2012

FARMVILLE – Longwood University's Board of Visitors has updated the university's Emergency Alert System policy.

The revision also includes how the Emergency Alert System will be used for “various types of threats to the campus and is meant to provide a clearer picture of what faculty and staff should expect in the event of a crisis,” according to rationale provided the board for its consideration.

The policy commits Longwood to having a comprehensive emergency alert system able to effectively and swiftly provide emergency communication in response to a local or community emergency.

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“The old policy talked about calling the cabinet and getting them to make a decision,” Longwood University Police Department Chief Bob Beach said during an interview this week. “At two o'clock in the morning that don't work…and the potential is it could happen at two o'clock in the morning. So we needed some logical ways and we thought the three levels was a good version. We used a color code, which was kind of playing off of the Homeland Security color codes. I think it works good for us.”

Specifically, the policy states that use of the system is “intended to provide a fast and efficient means of notifying the Longwood University community of an imminent and verifiable crisis event.”

Chief Beach declared during Tuesday's interview, “I will guarantee that this alert system will work perfectly.

“They practice it every day,” he said of his dispatch staff. “Sometimes multiple times a day. I'll walk in there and say, 'This just happened, what do you do?'”

Longwood's Emergency Operations Plan has a four-part emergency notification system that includes:

A siren and voice alert system.

A text message system that allows for a maximum of 100 characters, including spaces.

An email alert system.

And a crisis and emergency communications website.

Chief Beach also includes “word of mouth” as another level of communication. “Everybody you see,” he said-for the full interview see accompanying page one story-“you tell them, 'Hey, this alert's going.'”

LU's Police Chief estimates the system will reach “99 percent of the population. Could there be one or two that don't get it? I guess there could. But I think this is about as totally covering as best we can. If there was another way, certainly we'd be looking at it.”

Longwood pledges to utilize the Emergency Alert System in the event “of any emergency that poses an imminent verifiable threat to the life safety of our students, faculty, staff and visitors.”

A three-level, graduated color-coded threat condition will be used by the Longwood University Police Department to evaluate a potential threat.

Code Red means there is a “severe risk” and is based on what the policy describes as a “high level of verifiability and credibility.” This Threat Level 1 would pose “an imminent and severe risk of danger to the safety and security of the campus community and may result in a campus closure or building lockdown.”

Examples of a Code Red Threat Level 1 emergency include an active shooter, tornado, hazmat, or fire in a campus building.

In such an emergency, the siren and voice alert system, the text message system and email message system would be activated by the Longwood University Police Department. The crisis and emergency communication website would also be activated by LU's Office of Public Relations.

The Longwood.edu website would automatically redirect visitors to the crisis and emergency communication website and there would be updates and/or links posted on the university's official Twitter and Facebook pages.

Code Orange means there is a High Risk and is considered Threat Level 2. The policy states: “Based on the level of verifiability, Threat Level 2 poses a potentially high risk of danger to the campus community. The threat may be verified or unconfirmed and presents potential danger to the campus community.”

The policy notes that a particular Code Orange incident “could be elevated to Threat Level 1 with more verifiable information. This possible threat may result in the closing of the University due to the conditions.”

Examples of a Code Orange emergency include a hurricane or tornado warning, a “town event,” or a “person with a gun seen in (the) area.”

The response to a Threat Level 2 emergency include the following actions, according to Longwood's policy:

Text and email messages are activated by the university's police department (as always, to those who have signed up to receive them).

The police department will also notify key cabinet members.

A meeting of the Senior Management Crisis Team may also be convened.

And there may be additional email messages to faculty, staff and students by the Office of Public Relations.

A posting will also be placed on the Longwood Crisis Emergency Communication website, with updates and/or links posted on Longwood official Twitter and Facebook pages.

The third and final threat level in the university's emergency alert system is Code Yellow, which means there is an “elevated risk.”

The policy states that “based on the level of verifiability, Threat Level 3 presents a significant and elevated risk of danger to the campus community. A possible threat that may pose a danger to the campus community may result in closing of the university.”

Examples of a Code Yellow emergency include weather announcements from the National Weather Service, closing of the university due to snow or other weather conditions, and a pandemic.

The response to a Threat Level 3 emergency include the following actions, according to Longwood's policy:

An email message to faculty, staff and students by the Office of Public Relations.

A posting on the Longwood Crisis and Emergency Communication website, including an announcement on Longwood.edu, as an example, that the university is closed due to weather.

There would also be updates and/or links on Longwood official Twitter and Facebook pages.

The final component of the emergency alert system is the pledge that, if the system is activated, “every attempt will be made to notify the following personnel as soon as practical:

The President.

Members of the cabinet.

The Chief of Police, or the designee.

The Director of Environmental Health, Safety and Emergency Management.

And the Town of Farmville.