In late October, students and employees at Corban College & Graduate School were on alert—to test the effectiveness of Corban Alert, an audible warning system partnered with an emergency notification system. Three sirens rang out from the core of campus, informing participants to turn on their cell phones and/or check email as Blackboard Connect—the company with which Corban has contracted for notification services—phoned, text-messaged, and emailed simple instructions to the Corban community.
In regard to Corban’s emergency preparation practice, Vice President for Marketing Steve Hunt said, “We take student safety and security very seriously.”
The Corban Alert test was a step toward addressing all kinds of emergency situations, from natural disasters to concerns of violence on campus. Interestingly enough, research surrounding the tragedy at Virginia Tech shows colleges and universities are actually safer than the general public (“How safe are America’s campuses? Despite the latest tragedy, experts say college violence is rare,” Chicago Tribune, 22 April 2007). Corban’s Director of Information Systems Brian Schmidt expresses, “Let’s continue the good reputation and make sure.”
During its first systems test, Corban’s Emergency Planning Work Group confirmed predicted weaknesses of Corban Alert which will help to plot the refinement process. “Nothing was a surprise,” Schmidt reports. “Now the task is to collect feedback, provide additional training, and continue to build and improve on what we already have.”
Noteworthy as it was, however, the alert notification system test is just one small part of Corban’s emergency-preparedness plan. For example, The Emergency Planning Work Group is vigilantly considering additional ways to disseminate information. Schmidt said the College has not settled on researched methodologies. Since their primary limitation is budget-related, Schmidt says, “It’s good to be careful and not just throw money at a problem.”
Executive Manager/Chief of Security Rodger Greenfield, who spearheaded notification research and acted as liaison to bring it to campus, agrees that notification is part of a bigger picture. He believes, “Security awareness is the most powerful, least costly, and probably the most-neglected piece of emergency preparedness.”
In teaching preparedness, the Emergency Planning Work Group has been very intentional to avoid “alarm fatigue” with constant drills or petty changes to the emergency procedures. But Schmidt assures, “We are planning future tests, and we are planning future training events. We care about our students and we will do everything we can to ensure this is a place of safety. If something unfortunate should happen, we’ll continue to do everything we can to return it to a place of safety.”