The audio for this podcast can be downloaded at http://2011.highedweb.org/presentations/SOC4.mp3
is one in a series of podcasts from the HighEdWeb
Conference in Austin 2011.
Nyleva Corley: Thank you very much, Mark. Can everybody hear this? Does that sound good to you? All right. A little louder? OK, how about that? Is that better? Excellent. Right.
As Mark said, my name is Nyleva Corley. I am with the University of Texas at Austin, as is my colleague, Chris Latham. Chris and I work together in several capacities at UT Austin. I am Manager of Web and Social Media Communications for the Digital Content Group in University Communications. It's a very long title. My business card is very crowded.
Chris has a really lovely business card.
Chris Latham: I'm
just a regular web guy that got involved in social media.
I'm on another part of the org chart under University
Operations, which are folks like police and health and
safety, facilities and HR and such.
Chris and I are here today to chat with you about a very
sad event that took place a little more than a year ago at
UT Austin. We had a campus shooting September 28th, and we
are going to share our experiences communicating that
crisis to both our campus and external communities. It's
something that we hope we never have to experience again
at UT Austin, but the sad reality is that we need to have
plans in action for it.
Chris Latham: We do have a URL set up if you want to get more detailed information. We documented a timeline of the messaging that went out, some server statistics, and a summary of our slides on here at utexas.edu/safety/webcrisis. Our hashtag for you Twitter folks is #webcrisis and that's our Twitter handles there.
We'd love to hear about your experiences with crisis
communications, so feel free to tweet at us during and
after the conversation.
So what was the crisis on September 28th?
Shortly after 8am, we had reports come to 911 of an armed
subject on campus. It was a very frightening thing to
happen on a very unassuming Tuesday morning, just a
regular old workday for all of us just headed to campus.
Most of us still hadn't made it to campus that morning.
Later, as more information came through, we had more
reports that there was an active shooter on campus, and
the campus shortly thereafter went into lockdown mode.
Later that day, much later, about 3pm, we learned who the
campus shooter was. Colton Tooley, sadly, a 19-year-old
math sophomore, brought an AK-47 to campus.
He took the shuttle bus in, one of our Forty Acres buses,
and when he hopped off the bus, he fired some random shots
from his gun into the ground, not aiming at any students
but just randomly firing, ran down campus a little ways
and into our largest library on campus, Perry-Castañeda
Library, and that's where he turned his gun on himself.
Chris Latham: So
here, everyone's campus is so unique and ours is tightly
compact and condense, but this is where we physically were
during the events: Nyleva in the upper left, she's in
University Communications; I was down 24th Street, the
other little blue dot in the center.
As soon as events started taking place down in the bottom
left, you see the pink, that's the route that Colton took.
So he didn't travel very far. He traveled down 21st and
over to the library, with just a weird angle shape there.
The Emergency Command Center, the Stark Library, that's
in The Tower on campus, the big building. Unified Command,
that's where a lot of police agencies came together. And
on-site communicators, that's where our communicating
counterparts were there on-site dealing with the media and
getting on the phone and answering questions.
And then over to the east half there, the EOC, Emergency
Operations Command, that's housed in our police department
and that's where everyone gathers when there is something
going on, or even during a football game, have a command
center set up there.
One thing that this map shows you, and something that was
revealed to us after the event, is that the colleagues
you'll be working with to communicate crises on campus are
likely going to be spread about on campus, so you're
probably going to be communicating remotely with your
You're not all going to be housed in the same place, and
that can be a challenge. So if you can plan for that in
advance, then you'll be able to get over that hurdle.
We put together, this is all post-event, but we put
together a timeline documenting all of the things that
happened, all of the communications that took place that
morning. From all of our 911 calls to all of the text
messaging that went out, to all of the social media work
and web work that Chris and I did during the day, a lot of
the campus siren announcements and emails from university
administration, we documented all of that.
It's a long list of information, but I think it's worth a
look, and you can find that extended timeline on our
Chris Latham: I
think, real quick to note is, the time from when there is
a first call to 911 at 8:12, you see that at 8:22 to 8:25,
that was pretty much the end of the actual incident. So it
was really a 10-minute span that there was true danger.
But we had a lot of confusion on campus because there
were conflicting reports of what the shooter looked like.
One was found, and police said no if there was a second
shooter or not, so that's why this entire event lasted for
several hours and caused a lot of confusion. So having
confirmation of, 'What did the suspect look like?' gave us
lots of chaos.
Nyleva Corley: Knowing right at about 8am that we needed to communicate to a community of about 80,000 people, so that includes faculty, staff, students physically on campus that day, but as well, the world beyond the Forty Acres, we knew immediately that parents were going to want to know whether or not their students were safe. Our university alumni wanted to know what was going on at their university. So we had to act, and we had to act fast.
The great thing about the university environment is that
we already had a lot of plans in place, and that saved us
a lot of frustration when we figured out what was going on
University Operations is our administrative office, to
which Chris reports. They already have an emergency
management plan in place, so we were already working under
a very strict protocol of how to deal with this level of
Chris Latham: For
our area, to give you an idea of our org chart, some of
you all may have like a risk management office, for us, we
have an Associate VP for Campus Safety and Security. So
here I'm in the little green area in the middle.
You have the AVP for Campus Safety and Security, and
under him there's Police, and there's a separate
department for Emergency Preparedness, and it's only like
two guys. But they're really good, so they came up for all
the emergency plans for campus for disasters and
And then under Operations we have a separate
Communications Officer or Public Information Officer who
access the PIO for our Police Department, so really, if
anything dangerous goes down, she's usually the main
On Nyleva's side, she has a separate AVP for Public
Affairs, so she maybe handles more of the academic side
and we handle more of the administrative side for
communications with the media.
Another silver lining for us is that as a team, Chris and
I had worked together before to communicate previous
crises. So together we already had experience working with
Those two things affected an emergency management plan
was already in place and that we had worked as a team
together helped things go a lot more smoothly in such a
challenging, frustrating environment.
Another thing that really did help us that day is that we
had already been, as a part of that emergency management
protocol, trying to envision what all the scenarios could
be of really awful, terrible things happening on campus.
This is a little depressing to think about in advance,
planning out all of those terrible scenarios, but it's
We had already developed messaging templates for many
possible scenarios and 'active shooter on campus' was
definitely one of those, but we had also planned for bad
weather from hurricane to tornado to flooding to the
occasional snowfall that we do, yes, occasionally get here
in Texas. Also, from Chris' area, they had already been
planning and creating and producing and disseminating
education materials for the campus community.
So those were several things that we had going in our
favor already before the crisis happened on Tuesday.
Some of the channels we had in place the day of the
emergency, probably maybe a year before then.
Emergency Preparedness had installed sirens across campus
and loudspeakers and they do a monthly test of them. They
do text alerts also the first Wednesday of each month,
make sure the systems are operating as they expect. Of
course there's email alerts.
For the old-school folks, we have our homepage to post
information. We have a separate Emergency Information page
that's .edu/emergency, and that's what my team has worked
on specifically, and what it is, it just displays whatever
the main alert is going on, so maybe it's a campus closure
or an emergency.
But it has a back end, too, where it's restricted down to
maybe a dozen folks on campus who are authorized. They can
log in, post and update from wherever they are in the
world as long as they have Web access, and that emergency
message gets broadcast on the Emergency page. That was a
huge bonus for us that way, Nyleva isn't on-call trying to
update the homepage or something when something is going
on and we're out in Oregon or doing a triathlon or
Social media. Nyleva can talk about the official UT
social media for us in Operations. UT Police had just
created a Facebook page maybe three months before we had
this incident. We had another social media channel called
'Be Safe, Texas' which had a Facebook and a Twitter
And then the campus also has cable TVs, flat screens
around campus for posting an alert. They can do that from
a central place.
And then emergency responders and administrators have
pagers, and the awfully simple media called AtHoc which, if you're on
your computer and there's an emergency, bam, there's this
little pop-up that says, 'Hey, there's an emergency.'
That's in beta testing on campus right now. I don't think
that we've implemented that campus-wide.
Thank you for that beautiful asterisk of information. In
case something goes down.
And then the Police Department, they can do announcements
over their PA system on their cars.
Chris mentioned a little bit about social media channels.
We do from my office manage the university central Twitter
and Facebook page. And we did have those in place and had
been using them for prior crises emergency communications,
but on a more minor scale, so for campus closures due to
weather, that sort of thing. So this was the very first
time that we had put into place the use of social media
channels on such a large scale.
Some of the things that we'd love to hear from you after
the conversation is some questions just to get you
What does an emergency plan look like for your
organization? Does it exist? Do you have access to it? Are
you working off of that as a piece of protocol? Something
that Chris and I are very familiar with: What's the
communications command chain? Do you have a PIO available
24/7? These are some of the things that we were fortunate
enough to have in place.
Also, has your university conducted active shooter
training? And that's something that Chris is familiar with
by working with the Police Department.
Chris Latham: Not
that I'm ever on patrol or anything, I'm just the Web guy,
but the Police Department has commented they've got about
40 full-time officers on campus, so it's a decent-sized
But we have Department of Public Safety, our DPS, there's
the City of Austin Police, and there's the County
Sheriff's Office. Having all these agencies working
together on something they have trained before, and that
was absolutely fundamental and critical for making that
day go as smoothly as it did, there's still some
confusion. But if you work with your police department or
risk management, make sure that, if they aren't already,
that was a huge benefit.
Chris has talked a little bit about the roles of the folks
that we had in place. One of the points that I'd like to
emphasize, and Chris can also weigh in on this, is that
our supervisors empowered us to act.
We already talked a little bit about what our command
chain looked like that day. My two immediate bosses were
out in the field on campus working with news media and I
was there at my desk, at my desktop computer, trying to
listen in for information from a lot of different avenues.
And before she left, my supervisor said, "Just do it."
She put a lot of faith in me to put together messaging for
both the university's homepage, for all of our central
social media channels, that she did not feel like we
needed to review because we had already put all of these
action plans in place and we just felt like the more
efficient and quick that we can get that information out,
the better. Don't think about typos, don't think about
that sort of thing. Just get the information out.
Chris Latham: I
think what happened, if we look at the timeline, the very
first message that I think most anyone on campus received
was the text alert.
I was lucky to happen to be on campus at a decent time
that morning rather than my usual 8:30, nine o'clock, so I
was in place and I got that text alert, and then my first
response was to check the Emergency Information page.
That's where administrators can go in and post an alert.
But nothing had been posted there yet, so I'm like, 'What
do we do? Do I post it? Do I not post it? Is someone going
to post it in just a second? I don't know what's going
But my PIO and her information officer, they were on the
scene there in traffic. They were totally out of position
to be updating the Web.
So I treated the Emergency Information page as a 'first
come, first served' thing for folks who are authorized to
use it. I got the message, so I went ahead and posted
exactly what it was verbatim on the text message, and
then, over time, just seeing that someone else had started
posting to it. But it took a while before someone did. But
I was in a position where I could, so I felt comfortable
What were some of the lessons learned about roles and
people for this process?
One of the biggest things that we learned was to share
credentials among our Web and social media channels so
that you're not put in a position where you're the only
person who has access to updating your university's
homepage or updating your central social channels.
That's something that Chris and I learned and that we put
into place immediately after the September 28 event is
that we now can access each other's Web and social
Chris Latham: At
work and at home. I think that was a huge deal is having
whatever tools you're using, TweetDeck or HootSuite,
whatever, but having those accounts available wherever
you're at, maybe if it's even on your mobile device, if it
supports it, working at home or even on the go in case
something does happen, you can access whatever channel you
need to and when you need to.
Related to that is to have redundancies in your office.
Have backups for your backups for your backups. That's
something that we can't emphasize enough is that you may
be at the office that day but your supervisor may be stuck
in traffic on the day that this all happens and there is
just immense meltdown.
That was something that actually happened to us. One of
our supervisors was stuck in traffic on the way to campus
that morning. She has now put into place having
redundancies. We have now a secondary person who can act
as PIO. So I think that that's something that has to
Divide and conquer. If you can establish very specific
tasks for all of your team members that day, you don't
have to be responsible for every single thing. One of the
challenges that I realized that day is that I was both
trying to respond to updating the university's homepage in
addition to managing our social channels.
Well, that may not necessarily be a lot of work on a
normal day, but on a day just filled with tons of other
challenges, it's going to be hard to manage. So if you can
identify someone on your team who can be dedicated to one
or the other, I think that that would be the way to handle
And then finally, practice, practice, practice. We did
have the experience of working with one another in prior
emergency communications, but there is nothing like a day
when someone tells you that an armed suspect is on campus
and is firing an AK-47 on campus, and suddenly, can you
work off of muscle memory to get all of these things done?
And then also, for all possible times. I mean, we were fortunate enough, and as sad as this tragedy was, it happened while we were on campus that day or heading into campus. But something this tragic could also happen at 3am on a Saturday morning or during a football game. You have to be prepared during commencement. You have to be prepared for all those possible days and times and event scenarios.
Questions for you. Do your teams know one another? And
that's from your Communications team to your IT team to
your Operations team.
Chris Latham: That server's going to get hit really hard once this gets out into the media across the country, so your IT people really need to be involved in that to adjust the servers or throttle something or cache something in it. Makes a huge difference.
And then, do you have backup services for Web and social?
Another big question, an important question.
One of the things that really hit us hard Tuesday, September 28th, is we didn't have a 'lite mode' or a minimal version of our university's homepage in place to handle this crisis and we were very much in a manual process for updating our homepage.
This is something that we've been talking about doing for
a long time, but everybody here is familiar with the
university environment and sometimes how slowly it takes
for all of our teams to get together and move big projects
forward. So that was a critical realization for us on
Tuesday, September 28th, that that one big thing that we
had all been planning on doing wasn't accomplished on the
day that we needed it. So that's something that we push
We wanted to align our Emergency Information website that
Chris and his team had done so well and created so well,
that gave us all remote access to updating emergency
information on the Emergency page, align that with the
university's homepage so that we eliminate all of these
layers of getting this very important and critical
information to the front door, to our university's
homepage, one of our biggest and most visible channels for
communicating about crises.
Chris Latham: I
think one of the biggest outcomes on our end after this
situation is meeting with our IT Department and saying,
'OK, we've got to get this information over to the
homepage. How can we do that?' So effective last week, we
pushed to production a system that will read an XML file
and put it on the homepage if it sees an alert. So we have
that in place now and it just takes you to the Emergency
page if something's going on.
Nyleva Corley: That does not mean that you still cannot publish crafted official messages to your university's homepage, but we feel like it's important to separate that kind of messaging from your emergency messaging. Because we still wanted to post messages from our president discussing the gravity of the situation and taking an effort to comfort and support parents, faculty, students, alumni, but we really had to think about how we needed to separate those emergency updates from our more crafted official messages.
What's the 'lite mode'? Does your homepage already have a
lite mode? If not, you should totally encourage that.
We had a situation where it used to be updated manually,
but we had a back end system where that was a little more
challenging. Figuring out a solution for that was a huge
pause for us.
And then figuring out who actually pushes the button. If
something happens, that's when, 'Who is it that actually
makes this happen?' Having all your departments come
together and figure that out is huge. Again, practice,
The channels we used that day. Lots of Twitter, lots of
Facebook. And we talked about having versions at work and
Also for Facebook folks, we have so many Facebook
accounts on the UT campus. We try to 'like' each other's
Facebook pages so we all can communicate in sync.
Using Facebook presented a unique challenge that day.
We have a central Facebook page that has more than
300,000 followers. That morning, when I went to Facebook
sort of automatically to update that page, I had a moment
of pause. And upon retrospect, I definitely learned a
I opted not to post to Facebook that morning because it
was just me at that point, and I was worried, do I have
the human power here in the office to respond to the
volume of messages that I was anticipating that we were
then going to get once I started communicating about this
I can't say today that that was the best choice, but at
that moment, that split decision was made that I just
decided, I opted not to post, just because I felt like I
couldn't manage the volume of information, and what if
someone had posted an emergency request on that page, a
student who may have been in a basement somewhere on
campus, in a part of campus that had been locked down, did
I have the bandwidth to respond to that, and my immediate
answer was no.
Looking back on that moment, I feel like I still could
have used Facebook, but I could've communicated a very
specific message to our Facebook community and said,
'Look, for now this is just a one-way channel. I'm not
going to be able to respond to messages,' or just disable
wall posts altogether, just because we wanted people to
funnel all of their emergency requests to 911.
So you have to be prepared both on Facebook and Twitter
for people in a different kind of scenario, for them to be
putting out 911 requests or similar requests of an
emergency nature to your social channels.
Chris Latham: For
any of you who are pushing for social media on your
campus, one thing that we did see it benefit us
is when the campus on a lockdown, students were
maybe in basement areas of their buildings. We have
wireless across campus, but maybe their cellphone wasn't
getting a signal, but if they had wireless inside their
academic building, they could still get maybe social
media. So if you will dig in information from that whereas
they maybe didn't get the text alert.
And the text alert was a huge ordeal because we're
sending out 30,000 text messages at once, it takes about
10, maybe 15 minutes for that to hit everyone, so there's
a time delay even with the text message. So keep that in
And the questions that we wanted you to consider. Are you
using your social channels for emergency communications?
And if you're doing that, what are the procedures and
policies around that? Are they considered official
communications channels for your university?
And then also, who do you have designated to manage those social channels during a crisis? Our feeling is that you need to find someone and that's all that they pay attention to for that crisis during that day or week or however long your crisis happens.
Chris Latham: I
think we're getting close on time, so let's breeze
Lots of things that happen.
Our police department, it is a 911 call center, so if you
dial 911 from a campus phone it's going to go right to
dispatch. They got overwhelmed with phone calls, so the
actual officers had to resort to using their own mobile
phones to communicate centrally. That's a huge burden.
And gosh darn, these things will die right when you need
it. Your battery is going to drain while you're talking to
the local or national media, and then getting information
from the President's Office or what have you. So have
backups, or maybe it's a radio pager system, what have
you. Keep that in mind.
Server load will go up.
Get a terrible hashtag on Twitter. I think ours was
#utshooting. Nice and positive. So keep that in mind.
And of course, absolute confusion. At one point, Nyleva
called me up while I was posting messages on the Police
Facebook, 'Where are you getting this information?' I'm
like, 'I'm getting it from the media, sort of, and from
text messages.' I was trying to execute best judgment on
was this a confirmed source of information that I felt
But I think the biggest lesson was, post with some
frequency, at least every 15 minutes, to reassure. Even if
you're still in lockdown, let students know, let everyone
know you're still in lockdown, it's not safe to go out
yet. Keep communicating so people understand. Otherwise,
if 30 minutes pass and they haven't received another
message, they might think it's safe and start going out,
and you don't really want that.
One other quick note. There was some language that we used
that we felt didn't resonate as well as it could have
during the event, and that's something to think about and
to go back to your communications templates.
Are you using words that make sense to people during a
crisis? For example, 'lockdown.' That wasn't resonating
well with people. They were wondering what the hay that
meant. 'Shelter in place.' That was another thing that was
ultimately confusing to people.
So Chris' area did a revision on some of the vocabulary
that we've been using and rethought how we're pitching
that to our internal and external community. So be
thinking about that as communicators on the Web and in
social. Are you using words that make sense to someone in
After the event, they made some posters to help educate
our audience on what these terms mean.
One of the things that Chris just mentioned about the
feeling that we had that we weren't updating frequently
enough, we were just sitting in our desks trying to absorb
as much information as possible, at some times during the
crisis we felt like there was black hole. We just weren't
getting enough information we felt to satisfy our Web and
Even though we knew that our supervisors were doing the
best that they could to collect as much information as
possible, at some point, Chris was even going out and
listening to our loudspeaker system to try to collect
information from what was being posted there.
One thing to keep in mind is that there were some sound
vacuums on campus where you could not hear what those
loudspeaker siren messages were.
Chris Latham: On
one side of the building, it's clear; other side, just
like from Charlie Brown. So, yeah, very confusing.
Again, update regularly.
And of course, it's the parents that really want to know this information. If you don't lock down your comments and stuff, your responses to a post are going to explode. And that's fine; you do want to reassure them, let them know everything's fine.
What was cool to see is you send out a tweet or a post
and then, like I saw an agency from Dallas re-post that,
retweet that, say, 'Hey, if you have kids at UT Austin,
there is a shooter on campus, but everything's fine.
They're in lockdown.' So the message just spread even to
other agencies and such.
One more quick thing to keep in mind about lessons that we
learned. You won't be able to control everything that's
out there on social. I think at this point we're all very
well-aware of that. But especially during crises, people
are going to be posting their own interpretations of the
situation. So you have to be prepared to either just let
that go, or if in some cases it's providing very critical
misinformation to your community to respond to that
quickly from an official channel.
Oh, and just quickly. You will get Freedom of Information
requests about the event, so just be prepared as best you
can and start documenting all of your feeds and all of
your Web and social posts as early as possible. It's
something that I think benefited us. Chris was quite aware
of that and took action early on.
Chris Latham: We
were lucky that our event was only a few hours. What if it
had been an extended event? Those are questions that when
we debriefed we asked. What happens when we're exhausted?
Again, those backups. How do you keep this going? How do
you keep the messaging going in a long-term situation?
Luckily I haven't encountered that yet, but as you're
thinking about an emergency communications plan, think
about very long-term and how do you stay fresh and keep
The other thing to consider, and this is a sad thought,
but plan ahead if you need to for vigil and memorial
communications. Those are things that your campus and
external communities are going to want to know about.
Also, ongoing communications such as grief and mental
health counseling. That was something that we needed to
communicate to our campus community in a serious tragic
event you will also.
Also, for your staff and faculty, they're going to want
to know daily things like, 'How do I log leave time?' or
'What do I do about missed classes?' These are things that
our campus community members are going to want to know
about, and you're going to be responsible for helping to
Debrief, and debrief often, mostly even for your own
mental health. And it's just good to figure out, 'Oh, this
went really terrible. What can we do next time to not have
that happen again? Do we need to get radios? Do we need to
start meeting more often about how to update the
homepage?' So please debrief when you get back to campus
and talk about, 'How can we improve?'
And then of course keep a log of the events as they
happen, because that's going to get asked of you.
And we were
They let us home early, and I just went home and just,
boom, crashed. I didn't feel tired during the day, but
after you just settle down and the adrenaline goes away,
you just fall down. I just took a nap for a few hours.
It's physically and emotionally and mentally just
Even though you might not necessarily be on the ground
interacting with news media, you're on for as long as your
PIO is on and as long as it takes to communicate the
crisis. So, yeah, just understand that that feeling is
natural and have, as we've said, plenty of backups for
Chris Latham: And
real quick, we're almost done. Here's some quick stats.
The UT Police Facebook, which started just a few months
before, only had less than 500 folks, and it shot up over
10,000 two days later. All that was parents and students.
A lot of it was them just saying thank you to the police
department. I get a little choked up about it, but
overwhelming positive response was just amazing. And there
was a student group created just to say thank you to the
Police Department. It was really amazing, all the
And on the micro-site we have, we have some of these
responses from people on web pages or Facebook, if you
want to take a look.
That concludes our presentation for "Crisis Communications
on the Web and Social Media", and we're happy to take any
questions that you have.
second. I'm going to ask, because we're recording this,
that you ask your question into the mike so we can grab
that for posterity.
Thank you, Mark.
Audience 1: I
know you can't control what students and others do on
their Facebook pages in doing their own interpretive
versions of the crisis, but with so many people empowered
on your own team and with so many different channels to
manage, how do you as a group avoid duplication of effort
and the lag time with certain media where you might be
posting misinformation yourself? How would you handle
That's a really great question.
So how do we avoid duplication of effort? I think as far
as the social channels that Chris and I manage, we weren't
necessarily afraid of duplicating one another. Because we
were operating from the same source of official content,
official communication, our feeling was if we can push out
this official message to as many channels as possible,
that's great. As long as we weren't presenting conflicting
So I think that that's a good reason for your teams to
know each other and know what one another is doing and
know what their roles are on campus that day so you're not
operating at, butting heads on that.
That's a really great question, though, about the campus
channels, because at the university we don't have any
governance over what our department level, college level,
school level, social level...
Total anarchy, right. It's the 'Wild, Wild West' at the
University of Texas at Austin as, I'm guessing, it is at a
lot of your universities, so our hope is that they're
seeing us as the official channels and then they're just
propagating that message out to their constituents.
Audience 2: Hi.
John Mills from Emory University.
Audience 2: Hey. I'm involved in some of the crisis communications planning at my university. We've run some drills, and one of the lessons learned from that was that there's a time warp effect. It takes three minutes for your vice-president to call you and then three minutes for you to craft a message and three more minutes to post it on the Web, and then it's been 15 minutes, whatever. Stuff really slows down.
We were struggling to balance that with a real concern
for accuracy in a crisis, in a mass casualty situation,
how many people have been affected, where are they, what
kind of injuries are they, where have they been taken,
which hospital, are they students, are they public, you
know, and there was a lot of concern about the accuracy of
information so they had a protocol for who could talk to
who all the way up and down the chain.
So all communication only went, we were only allowed to
talk to certain people and get official information from
certain people. They had feelers out, but they were
vetting all that information, and we found that that
really slowed down the process greatly.
And it's interesting to hear that you talked about the
concern for speed and just ignore the typos and get the
information out, and I'm curious why there was less maybe
concern for you guys about that protocol for speaking up
and down the chain, and did you have something in place.
Chris Latham: I
think it just felt, 'We've got to get this out. This is
very dangerous. They've got to get the message as quickly
as possible.' I think we felt comfortable doing it,
knowing with our relationship with our supervisor. So the
immediacy, I think, overruled any other protocol or
And we were still waiting for official word from our
supervisors on any major updates or next-step actions. But
I guess our feeling is, if we can continue to reassure the
community by updating even, 'We don't have any updates,'
just to let them know that we're still on top of
communicating that, I think that that's our feeling that
those kinds of messages don't have to be approved by your
supervisors to follow the command chain.
The other thing is, my comment about the typos, that's really hard for me to let go. I'm a grammar nerd, I'm an English nerd, and that kind of control is something that's very hard for me to let go. But our feeling is, as long as it's not an official crafted message, we're really thinking about those emergency updates as something separate from that official crafted message. If you've got to tell someone that there's a shooter in the building, then you get that message out there as quickly as possible.
We still very much believe in the command chain and the
protocol, but there are some things that our supervisors
just gave us room to get out quickly.
Audience 3: Hi.
I'm Ken Zirkel from Brown University. When you build
something for the emergency systems like a website or
whatever, who pays for that? Is there a special emergency
There's people who would pay? What?
[Laughter] Right. Budget? What? That's a great question.
We see this as a common good service for the community,
so it's something that there is no budget for. We just do
it. We work in concert, both the University Operations and
University Communications, work in concert with our
Information Technology Services folks, and we don't talk
about budget. We just talk about how many human resources
is it going to take to get this done and how quickly can
we do it.
I know that that's like one of the strangest things that
you've probably ever heard anyone utter, but we feel like
as far as emergency communications go, it had to be
something that we did collaboratively and...
Audience 3: But
even in terms of beforehand, when you're setting up the
services? Even those, you don't...?
Oh, I'm sorry, you're talking more broadly, sort of about
the siren system and the text messaging services?
Chris, can you speak to him?
Chris Latham: I
think there was a lot of budget from AVP for Campus Safety
and Security and for Emergency Preparedness and Police,
like their budget is, the Emergency Preparedness Director,
he'd say, 'Well, we need this, we need this, we need
this,' and who's going to not say, 'Oh, we don't need
safety on campus?' Safety has a little more oomph than
some of our other departments. It's something they plan
for but can't really go, I don't know much more detail
other than that.
So, yeah, those services are coming out of our University
Audience 3: I
have another question. Maybe you answered and I missed it,
but do you have a backup system for like if the server
gets destroyed? And what is it?
That's a great question. We do have at least one
redundancy for our web server, and it's an offsite server.
Chris, can you share...
That's still one of those things, we're waiting on the
official offsite server. It's something we have in place
now, but we're trying to get even something better that's
housed in California or maybe in another city or state, in
case Texas gets hit by Hurricane who-knows-what.
So that's another thing. If you don't already have an
emergency server in another state or another location,
that's something we would strongly recommend.
Thank you. Any other questions? Excellent. Thank you very
much for this afternoon.