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Mass Notification Systems on Safety and Communication in Community Colleges

Enhancing Emergency Response: The Impact of Mass Notification Systems on Safety and Communication in Community Colleges

Community colleges face unique security concerns and require tailored approaches to ensure the safety of their diverse student populations. Unlike traditional universities and colleges, community college students often attend part-time, commute to campus and come from various backgrounds.

Because of these reasons, community colleges are increasingly dedicating more of their budget and time to developing sound emergency preparedness plans and enhancing campus security technology.

Effective communication plays a key role in making these emergency plans work. Quick and reliable communication enhances emergency preparedness, reduces misinformation, calms confusion and mitigates damage to property, assets and lives during a crisis.

Many community colleges are adopting mass notification systems (MNS) to modernize communication methods. These systems enhance crisis management and contribute to creating a safer campus environment and fostering a sense of community.

This article examines three timely and relevant emergency scenarios that community colleges may encounter and explores how a mass notification system can aid in responding to these situations.  

The growing need for enhanced security solutions

The rising concerns surrounding crises such as active shooter incidents and community violence near campuses have prompted colleges to review and strengthen their emergency preparedness plans. Consequently, there has been an increase in spending on security measures and technology enhancements. Research by Omida indicates that the U.S. education security market is projected to grow by over eight percent annually, surpassing the $3.1 billion spending mark in 2021.

Community colleges play a significant role in this surge of spending, as they cater to 10.4 million students, representing 44 percent of all U.S. undergraduates. 

These colleges face unique challenges due to their diverse student populations, including the enrollment of high school students in dual enrollment programs. As a result, school administrators must be prepared for any event that necessitates campus closures or causes students and staff to feel unsafe. In addition, students who feel protected from violence, threats and other emergencies are more likely to perform better academically.


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Active Shooter Scenarios

While active shooter incidents on college campuses are relatively rare, they do occur. An example is the tragic 2015 shooting on the Umpqua Community College campus in Roseburg, Oregon, where nine individuals lost their lives.

Active shooter situations create high fear, stress and panic levels, particularly in crowded environments like colleges. In such scenarios, panicked responses can exasperate the danger; however, knowing how to respond is challenging for most people.

During an active shooter incident, quick and accurate communication is crucial. Communicating with individuals inside and outside the building and even in the surrounding area may be necessary. It is essential to have the appropriate equipment and rely on a reliable mass notification system like Regroup Mass Notification to facilitate this. 

Regroup Mass Notification can:

  • Alert students and staff that a shooter is in the area and provide guidance about whether they should evacuate the areas or secure themselves in place.  
  • Halt rumors about active shooter activity in the area, minimizing confusion and panic.
  • Issue an “all clear” message to students and staff.
  • Keep everyone informed with real-time updates during rapidly changing situations.
  • Ensure the safety and well-being of everyone by conducting a poll or employing two-way messaging or QuickConference to account for everyone’s location and status. 
  • Update the community on building or road closures to prevent unnecessary travel and confusion following a shooting.
  • Provide local threat monitoring for active shooter incidents in the area.
  • Communicate information about the college’s reopening.
  • Deliver clear, concise and relevant messages to reduce confusion and misinformation, keeping students and staff informed and providing guidance if possible.

Night Classes and Student Safety

Many community colleges attend part-time and take classes at night, which can expose them to additional risks. Therefore, community colleges must implement preventive measures to safeguard students attending evening classes.  

While well-lit paths and Campus Safety Call Boxes are standard safety features, a person may not be near these resources or may not be able to activate a call box manually in an emergency. Therefore, a mobile app with a panic button can give students a portable emergency alert system. A phone can be a powerful tool, and Regroup’s mobile app provides a safe solution in these situations.

The Regroup Panic Alerts provides students and staff extra security wherever they are on campus. During an emergency, students can send rapid, two-tap alerts from the Regroup Mobile app to cell phones, landlines, school security, 911, email, social media and more. In addition to delivering specific panic alerts, users that trigger a message automatically can share their geolocation so recipients know exactly where help is needed most.

Regroup’s Mobile app allows witnesses and first responders to send important information and updates from the scene to improve emergency response time. This valuable feedback helps during an emergency and improves how campus administrators handle security measures and future emergency preparedness planning.

By providing user-friendly and campus-wide technology such as Regroup’s TipSafe, students are encouraged to report criminal activity and safety hazards to Campus Security, improving safety measures for the entire college community long-term.  

Severe Weather

Of all the emergencies a school must prepare for, severe weather and natural disasters are most likely to happen in a school year. Severe weather can shut down roads for commuting students, cause injury to those on campus and impact the school’s operations and infrastructure.

Severe weather events can form quickly and unexpectedly. In fact, they can arrive just in time for school classes to begin. That is why sending emergency alerts about inclement weather can quickly alert students and staff, no matter where they are on or off campus, to let them know there’s severe weather on the way.

However, administrators must know about impending weather before they can send an emergency alert. That is why Regroup partners with the National Weather Service (NWS) and is recognized as a Weather-Ready Nation (WRN) Ambassador by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The integration with the NOAA weather and NWS allows Regroup to send real-time, location-based watches, warnings and alerts to schools automatically in any location across multiple channels. In addition, Regroup was one of the first companies to be approved by FEMA’s national system for local alerting– the Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS).

Community colleges can use a streamlined mass communication system to ensure they are well-prepared to manage and protect their campus, students and staff from harm before, during and after severe weather.

An effective mass notification system should also:

  • Send alerts through multiple channels, including SMS, voice, email and desktop.
  • Use cloud-based technology so communication happens when cell phone towers are down or overloaded.
  • Deliver geo-targeted and time-sensitive alerts to employees and students.
  • Integrate with your internal school applications and sync with your directory regularly, so you know your message will always get to the right people.
  • Two-way chat so response teams can collaborate from their mobile devices and create an audit trail to gain insight on improving for the next storm or power outage.
  • Translate messages into multiple languages, especially if you have multilingual staff or students.

Final Thoughts

Community colleges recognize the unique security challenges they face and are taking proactive steps to ensure the safety of their diverse student populations. The importance of effective communication during emergencies cannot be overstated. Clear and timely communication is vital to enhancing preparedness, minimizing information, alleviating confusion and mitigating potential harm to individuals and campus resources.

Community colleges are increasingly adopting mass notification systems (MNS) to modernize their communication methods. These systems improve communication during an emergency and contribute to creating a safer and more inclusive campus environment that fosters a sense of community among students, faculty and staff.

Active shooter incidents, student safety during night classes and severe weather events are common situations community colleges must prepare for. In each of these scenarios, a mass notification system, such as Regroup Mass Notification, can play a crucial role in facilitating an effective response.

Community colleges recognize the importance of tailored security approaches and effective communication systems to protect their students, staff and campuses. By investing in mass notification systems, community colleges are taking proactive measures to enhance emergency preparedness, minimize risk and foster a safe and inclusive learning environment for all.

Finding a mass notification system that addresses your school’s specific requirements and future needs can be confusing. Regroup Mass Notification focuses on providing an industry-leading, all-in-one Mass Notification platform for emergency and day-to-day communications for higher education. Download Regroup buyer’s guide or schedule a free demo to learn more.

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