Mass Notification Can Save Lives, But People Need to Know Who's Sending the Message

Establish credibility when sending a mass notification to ensure readers pay attention to your message, follow instructions, and stay safe. 

We live in an age in which over-information has become a way of life. Our daily grind is peppered with headlines, viral videos, and gossip. We can’t open a computer, watch television or walk down a street without being bombarded; and the more information we get, the more we expect. But for how easy information is to receive, it is just as easy to send out. It’s hard to know what to trust. In an emergency situation, a lack of trust can be very dangerous, found Researchers Raj Sharman and H. Raghav Rao, professors in the University of Buffalo School of Management, along with their co-researchers.

Through extensive research that included a survey of 600 students and a dozen student focus groups, Sharman and Rao found that if students do not know or trust the source of an emergency notification, they are likely to not comply or put themselves in danger by leaving their current locations to verify with other students.

On the other hand, Sharman told Campus Safety magazine, “…If students believe the information is coming from a trustworthy source (a close friend, parent, professor or administrator such as university police chief), they are more likely to follow the directions given in the emergency alerts.” Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) kept this in mind when they implemented an InformaCast solution from Singlewire Software.

“SNAP is the name we’ve given our emergency notification system here at KCTCS. The system goes immediately to about 8,000 or so Voice Over IP phones. It can go to desktop computers. And also we’re tied into a text messaging which gets out thousands of messages in minutes,” said Derrel Cone, Technology Solutions Project Coordinator, including SNAP Program, at KCTCS. When students see a message from SNAP, they know that it is an important message from the school.  

Sharman and Rao also found that mass notification campus alerts are the best way for students to be informed of an emergency and to receive instruction. A mass notification system like InformaCast, which can communicate with students from a variety of media, such as text messages, email, and social media, is especially ideal, since the researchers also found that using a variety of communication channels is necessary to reach students and build credibility. According to Sharman and Rao, when students become accustomed to receiving official notifications through these channels, they are more likely to trust emergency alerts and comply immediately with their directives.

Such was the case at Ouachita Baptist University on August 24, 2010 when an armed robbery suspect ran onto campus.

“Once [the Vice President for Student Services] understood the situation at hand, he was able to send the alert from his computer,” said Rob Crockett, Network Administrator at the university. “He was able to send an audible message with InformaCast. He was able to [send] text messages. He was able to change our webpage, and send emails to all students, faculty, and staff.” Because of this multi-channel communication that InformaCast provided, the university was able to conduct a campus-wide lockdown in approximately five minutes.

“It worked very successfully,” said Crockett.

In an age in which people are constantly bombarded with information, establishing credibility is one of the best ways to break through the white noise and get your message heard. By stating and verifying the source of a notification, implementing an effective mass notification system, and communicating with students through a variety of communication channels that are relevant to them, school officials can get students’ attention and provide them with the information needed to keep them safe. 

Campus Safety magazine quotes taken from Study: Students Must Trust Source of Alerts to Act Quickly




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