Blog Prompt: Technology & emergency preparedness

By Valerie Heruska

I work at Boston University, a school that is literally built around the tracks of the MBTA and runs up and down a very busy street known as Commonwealth Ave (or Comm Ave to the locals).  I work in a city, and while I love working here at BU, sometimes, it’s a little scary walking around at night. Now granted, we have those lovely blue emergency boxes, but when your campus is integrated into a city, there are bound to be some consequences.

Over the past two years that I’ve worked here, I am always thankful for Boston University police and their use of technology for emergency preparedness.  Here at Boston University, we have “BU Alert” system. According the BUPD’s website:

Boston University has established a notification system (BU Alert) for the purpose of communicating with the campus community upon the confirmation of a significant emergency or dangerous situation involving an immediate threat to the health or safety of students or employees occurring on the campus. For more information about BU Alert, visit the BU Alert webpage. Students may add or update their BU Alert contact information by visiting the Student Link and clicking the “Personal” tab to update “Address and Phone.” Questions concerning enrollment in the BU Alert program may be addressed to the Admissions Office (617-353-2300). Staff may add or update their BU Alert contact information by visiting the Employee Link and clicking the “Personal” tab to update“BU Alert Information.”

In the event a situation arises, either on or off campus, that, in the judgment of the Chief of Police and Executive Director of Public Safety, constitutes an ongoing or continuing threat, a campus wide “timely warning” will be issued. The warning will be issued through the BU Alert System. Notice will be sent via text message, voice mail, and email. Notice will also be posted on the BU home page, BU web pages, and scrolled on the University’s cable television system.

What emergency response plans are in place at Boston University?

The Boston University (BU) Emergency Response Plan (Plan) establishes a procedure for mobilizing the university’s resources and communicating with the university and external community in the event of a large-scale emergency. The plan was developed by the Emergency Response Planning Division of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) in cooperation with over a dozen departments, colleges, and offices as well as public safety agencies. It is updated annually and a campus-wide emergency response drill is conducted every 18 months to test and improve upon the plan. The plan describes three phases of emergency situations. These situations are as follows: Phase A is the initial response to a potential emergency situation or an actual event when the impact is uncertain. Phase B is an actual emergency that impacts the university and cannot be handled by on-site personnel in a routine fashion. At this phase, the Command Center may be established to bring key department representatives together to coordinate a response from a single location. Phase C is a large-scale emergency that requires the reassignment of on-duty and/or recall of off-duty personnel or contractors and transfers overall university coordination to the Command Center.

I’ve received texts, emails, and phone calls in a very timely manner.  I’ve received them so far in the case of robberies, weather, and suspicious packages. I think BUPD and EHS and the other areas of campus understand the differences in what students, faculty, and staff use on campus. I’ve definitely found it useful living on such a large campus, and I think BU is definitely prepared in a time of emergency.


How does your campus use technology with regards to emergency preparedness?

Blog Prompt: Technology & emergency preparedness

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