Need for Timely WarningsFollowing the April 16, 2007, massacre of 32 people at Virginia Tech, universities across the nation have been challenged to effectively assess their emergency response capabilities, including filling the essential need to provide timely warnings to potential victims of violence, explains Christopher Jones, associate director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management in the UCSF Police Department. “After Virginia Tech and the state of Virginia identified a set of recommendations in fall 2007, UCSF Police staff reviewed those recommendations and identified the current state of compliance with the recommendations at UCSF,” Jones says. “The ability to issue a prompt mass warning is paramount among the improvements needed and became the focus of subsequent review.” Senior Vice Chancellor Steve Barclay commissioned staff to assess UCSF capabilities to respond and provide timely mass notification during an “active shooter” scenario. A comprehensive emergency communications committee was convened, composed of representatives of UCSF Police, Capital Programs & Facilities Management, Public Affairs, Office of Research, and UCSF Medical Center. The committee reviewed an active shooter test scenario as a means to evaluate gaps in existing UCSF mass communication capabilities, including protocol, infrastructure and operations, researched potential solutions to resolve gaps, and made recommendations for specific improvements to strengthen the communication capabilities related to an active shooter event response and management. In February 2008, Chief Roskowski submitted a proposal to Barclay to fund recommended improvements, and the chancellor approved funding for the project in March 2008. UCSF also will buy and install electronic message boards that will be placed strategically around campus locations.
UC Campuses Adopt SystemDuring winter and spring 2008, the UCSF Police Department’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Unit (HSEM) contacted other universities to see how they were addressing the issue of mass notification. UC Davis successfully implemented its mass notification system nine months after contracting with WARN. WARN is managed by GCI, a data, technology and communication provider managing web-based services and training for more than 140 companies, and operating continuously online since 1996, according to its website. Impressed with the WARN system and UC Davis’ success, UCSF – along with UC Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley and UC Merced – decided to contract with WARN. HSEM also recruited a mass notification system coordinator, John Racine, an emergency preparedness specialist. Due to the recent attacks against researchers at UC Santa Cruz, HSEM expedited the configuration of WARN, and by early September 2008, UCSF was capable of using WarnMe to notify UCSF researchers of threats against their homes or labs. Since then, HSEM has briefed representatives from across the campus about the WarnMe system. The system replaces the Send Word Now system employed to dispatch campus emergency responders. “The biggest challenge will be encouraging everyone to enter as many means of contacting them in an emergency as possible,” Jones says. “The important thing for everyone to understand is that in any large-scale emergency, one or more means of communication will fail. So the more you have, the greater the chances are you will get the warning that may save your life.” To motivate staff, faculty, students and affiliates to self-register, HSEM will hold drawings for prizes like the iPhone and Blackberry Storm to registrants randomly selected from updated profiles on the WarnMe system self-registration website.
New Online Course Offers Safety Tips for Active Shooter Scenario
UCSF Today, Dec. 2, 2008
Learning How to Survive a Shooter on Campus UCSF Today, Aug. 26, 2008