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When Emergency Strikes: The importance of up-to-date contact information

Jan. 25, 2013

Recent events on college campuses and in our country remind us that communication in the midst of emergency situations is critical. Preparedness is paramount on a campus as geographically and operationally diverse as Baylor.

For those times when faculty, staff and students need to be informed immediately of an emergency situation, an emergency management system, called BaylorAlert, is in place. As robust and thoughtful as this system may be, its ultimate effectiveness hangs on one thing: the quality of the contact information that has been provided by those people affected by the crisis.

The dawn of a new year and a new semester provides an excellent opportunity for the University to focus efforts on the collection of high quality emergency contact information from all faculty and staff. While a large majority of students have provided emergency contact information through the BaylorAlert system, the percentages are lower for faculty and staff. As a result, University administrators ask faculty and staff to update and/or verify their emergency contact information before Feb. 15.

"During the spring, emergency notifications may be necessary as we encounter sudden inclement weather, such as tornado warnings or ice conditions. With active on-campus construction, unusual events such as utility service disruptions may occur. While we would hope it never happens, we must also be prepared for a life-threatening event on campus. It is critically important for students, faculty and staff to maintain up-to-date contact information in BearWeb in order to disseminate information as quickly and as broadly as possible," said Leigh Ann Moffett, director of emergency management.

One important aspect of the BaylorAlert system allows information to be distributed to individuals by email, recorded phone messages and text messages. This system is driven by the emergency contact information provided by faculty, staff and students.

Other aspects such as outdoor notification systems mounted on campus buildings and indoor notification intercoms in various buildings provide communication tools for entire facilities. Moffett noted that 24 campus buildings allow Baylor Police to use the indoor notification systems for live messages. In the future, most campus buildings will have that capability.

"When we have emergency contact information that includes office locations for staff and faculty, we can tailor information to those people directly affected by a situation. For example, we recently used BaylorAlert to notify personnel about a significant water main break near their building rather than sending the notice to the entire campus," Moffett said.

You should expect communication during an emergency situation to occur in waves. First, the alert system will quickly distribute enough basic information to ensure student, staff and faculty safety. Additional information will be distributed as the event unfolds and will further instruct the campus community regarding appropriate actions. It is not the goal of the BaylorAlert system to inform the campus of news relative to the emergency; the system is focused on providing information essential to keeping the students, faculty and staff secure.

All faculty and staff are encouraged to make sure their emergency contact information is up to date. To verify and update your personal emergency contact information, go to BearWeb and log in using your Baylor ID and PIN. (There is an option to reset your PIN if you've forgotten it.) If you have missing information, BearWeb may immediately prompt you to "stop and verify your emergency alert information before continuing." Even if that prompt does not appear, it is important that all faculty and staff verify the information currently provided in the system. Under "Personal Information," select "View and Update Baylor Alert Cell Phone Information" and then "View and Update Office Location." Verify your office location and provide any emergency contact information you would like to use for communication.

Moffett said the system automatically pulls in the email addresses of faculty and staff. Office phone and location are populated in the system, too, but faculty and staff should be sure their information is correct. As faculty and staff relocate around the campus, the information may not be updated. Home phone, cell phone and other information should be provided by all faculty and staff members through the update process. In an emergency, each communication channel will be used to ensure the faculty or staff member receives the best and most current emergency information.

Emergency notifications also will be posted to Twitter

via @BaylorAlert and Baylor web pages, including

baylor.edu/facultystaff.

"The University has worked hard to build a strong and effective emergency alert system. In the event of an emergency, our goal is timely notification to 100 percent of our campus constituents to give them the information needed to be safe on our campus, and we need accurate and up-to-date data from faculty and staff in order to accomplish that goal," she said.


To update emergency contact information, log onto BearWeb.

For emergency planning, visit: baylor.edu/emergency.

To report an emergency, call Baylor Police at ext. 2222 from a campus phone or (254) 710-2222 from a cell phone. Baylor Police will coordinate with off-campus departments (EMS, police, fire) as needed.


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