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Annex D - Emergency Alert System

Policy

The Higher Education Opportunity Act (Public Law 110-315) (HEOA) was enacted on August 14, 2008. Under Title IV, the federal law requires all colleges and universities to have a notification and warning plan in place to alert the campus community of an emergency.

This policy establishes the emergency notification and warning program at Binghamton University. This program is commonly referred to as the "B-ALERT" emergency notification system. This document, in aggregate, constitutes the University's Emergency Notification and Warning Plan.

Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to define use of Binghamton University's Emergency Alert System. This system has multiple alert components that are intended to improve emergency communications between the University's Administration and Binghamton University students, staff, faculty and visitors. The primary objective of the emergency alert system is to provide timely notification and warning of threats, imminent or occurring, that pose an immediate threat to the health, safety or general welfare of students, staff, faculty and/or visitors while on campus. This document establishes the protocols that are to be taken in case of an emergency in order to promote the safety of everyone on campus. The Emergency Alert System includes:

Assumptions

In order to plan for and consider the effectiveness of the Binghamton University emergency notification system, one must take into account several planning assumptions:

Responsibilities

Emergency Management

Shall provide oversight, management and coordination of the University's emergency notification and warning system. Emergency Management shall ensure compliance with all applicable federal, state and local laws pertaining to emergency notification and warning requirements. Emergency Management shall initiate a B-ALERT for any immediate or imminent threat to the campus community.

NYS University Police (NYSUP)

The NYS University Police shall participate in the emergency notification and warning system. NYSUP shall initiate a B-ALERT for any immediate or imminent threat of a criminal nature and may initiate threats of any other nature.

Communications and Marketing

Shall participate in the emergency notification and warning system. Communications and Marketing shall disseminate a B-ALERT emergency message via delivery methods under its operational control.

Alert Methodology

Alert methods are classified as Primary versus Secondary and Active versus Passive

Primary vs. Secondary

Primary alert methods include those that can be promptly initiated; have minimal time to deliver; and reach a broad audience. Secondary alert methods include those that may be time-consuming to activate and / or have a limited audience.

Active vs. Passive

Active alert methods include those that require minimal effort on the part of the recipient to receive the alert message.

Passive alert methods include those that require a concerted action on the part of the recipient to seek and receive the message.

  PRIMARY

SECONDARY

ACTIVE      Text Messages
  • Outdoor Siren
  • Vehicle Public Address Systems
  • Two-way Portable Employee Radios
PASSIVE
  • BU Alert Line (607) 777-7700
  • Electronic LED Message Boards
  • www.binghamton.edu Home Page
  • www2.binghamton.edu/alert Alerts Page
  • E-Mail
  • University Cable Channel 42
  • Local Television & Radio
  • Campus Voice Mail
  • RSS Feeds
  • Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

Alert Levels

Depending on the nature, severity, and duration of an incident or threat, combined with the results of 
answering the questions in Section 8, one of the following Alert Levels is selected:

Full Activation

A situation that requires the immediate activation of ALL Primary delivery methods.

Partial Activation

A situation that requires use of only certain, selected Primary delivery methods.

Information Only

A situation that is not a warning of an immediate threat, but rather a dissemination of information that mitigates concern or potential for rumors.

Public Service Announcement

The distribution of information that serves to promote safety and a culture of preparedness by raising awareness.

Urgency Levels

Immediate

Occurring now or likely to occur at any moment; impending. Requires immediate action.

Urgent

Not immediately life threating but requires information to be disseminated promptly. Distribution of information may only be slightly delayed while all information and facts are gathered.

Minimal

No immediate danger to health or safety. Distribution of information may be delayed while all information and facts are gathered.

Acceptable Use of the Emergency Alert System

Pre-Approved Alerts

The following emergency scenarios and associated B-ALERT messages are pre-approved by University officials and eligible for immediate Full Activation of B-ALERT.

Other Alerts

The following scenarios and associated B-ALERT messages are pre-approved by University officials and eligible for immediate Partial Activation of B-ALERT.

Notification Systems

Campus Website

The campus home page (www.binghamton.edu) and related pages are managed by Communications and Marketing.

In an emergency, the home page can carry an appropriate, brief message on the status of the campus and any action that should be taken. The home page and/or Alert page can be reconfigured as appropriate to give more prominence to a particular story. 


A major emergency can drive a significant traffic spike to campus websites. If necessary, Communications and Marketing will temporarily switch the campus home page to a stripped- down, faster-loading version. Communications and Marketing has prepared appropriate templates to accommodate this. 


During the early stages of major emergencies (the first minutes and hours, day) the campus web page would serve as the primary tool for providing continually updated information to the campus community, press and public. Press releases, media advisories and other more conventional tools could be used as campus business functions begin to return to normal. 


In the event that an emergency disrupts communications traffic in and out of the campus's ITS Data Center, where the binghamton.edu website is hosted, Communications and Marketing will switch its online publishing of emergency information to www.binghamton.edu/alert. If the disruption is expected to last more than a few hours, ITS has the ability, in consultation with Communications and Marketing, to change domain name service routing so that all traffic to binghamton.edu will be sent instead to the remotely hosted site.

Overview of all other notification systems

It is important to understand that a single medium will not enable the university to fully notify all audiences; each method has limitations. Instead, we utilize a combination of communication resources, depending on the situation, to advise the Binghamton University community about potential threats. The same central messages approved by the EOC Director and Communications and Marketing would also be repeated in part or in total, and as appropriate, via these additional tools.

Name of System Name of System Audience        Limitations  

Campus Website

  • www.binghamton.edu
  • www.binghamton.edu/alert
Communications and Marketing maintains the campus home web page.

 

  • Students
  • Faculty
  • Staff
  • Parents
  • Public
  • Media
  • Requires personnel from Communications and Marketing to post changes.
  • May take several minutes, depending on staff availability and access to the internet
  • Power and Internet connectivity dependent.
B-ALERT emergency messaging system B-ALERT is the official Binghamton University messaging system, providing notifications to students, staff and faculty via SMS text messaging, email, RSS feed and Social Media. The Director of Emergency Management manages the B-ALERT system. Communications and Marketing has access to the system.
  • Students
  • Faculty
  • Staff
  • SMS text messages are limited to 140 characters thus limiting detail
  • B-ALERT may take minutes to complete delivery to most subscribers, and may take hours for some individuals. Unknown issues related to phone company spam prevention and cell tower overload may delay messages.
  • Users of the B-ALERT system must have a binghamton.edu email address in order to register for the service. • Individuals must go to the B-ALERT web site (https://www.getrave.com/login/binghamton) and enter their cell numbers (for text alerts-which delivers B-ALERTs messages most quickly) or other preferred contact methods.
  • Not all persons carry cell phones
  • Recipient may incur a cost by their cell phone provider to receive message
  • Internet connectivity dependent.
Outdoor Siren The outdoor siren is capable of providing tone and voice signals. The system is pre-programmed with scripted messages that may be used during certain critical incidents. The siren is intended to alert people who are outside and was not designed to be heard by individuals who are already indoors. All people located outdoors, on the Vestal campus.
  • Outdoor use only
  • Many persons inside buildings will not hear the siren
  • The sound quality of the voice announcements may be limited to very short and simple instructions
  • The sound quality of the voice instructions may be negatively impacted by the sound waves bouncing off structures, which may distort the audio quality.
BU Alert Line (607) 777-7700 Calling this number will provide a recorded message with updated information regarding all emergency incidents and weather related information for the Binghamton University campus. Communications and Marketing manages the recorded messaged on the BU Alert Line.
  • Students
  • Faculty
  • Staff
  • Parents
  • Requires personnel from Communications and Marketing to post messages
  • May take several minutes, depending on staff availability
  • Power and Internet connectivity dependent.
Social Media Facebook Twitter Communications and Marketing manages the university's official social media presence. These sites provide an opportunity to communicate quickly as well as when traditional methods may not be effective.
  • Students
  • Faculty
  • Staff
  • Parents
  • Public
  • Media
  • POSITIVE: The use of social networking website is extremely popular, especially among students. Students are known to check these sites frequently.
  • POSITIVE: Binghamton University has accounts on various social media outlets, including Facebook and Twitter, which can be used to alert students to emergency situations, direct them to the campus emergency page for more details, and provide critical additional information.
  • Requires staff to post and monitor discussions.
Electronic Message Boards & TV Screens The university manages a series of electronic message boards and TV screens that are placed at various locations throughout the campus. Common locations for these types of signs include the entrances to campus as well as dining facilities. These boards may be quickly 'captured' and programmed to display emergency messages whenever necessary.
  • Students
  • Faculty
  • Staff
  • Requires personnel from Communications and Marketing to post messages
  • May take several minutes, depending on staff availability
  • Power and Internet connectivity dependent.
Campus Voice Mail All university-owned hard-wired phones are capable or receiving voice mail messages. During an emergency incident, a recorded message containing critical information can be distributed to all campus phones.
  • Faculty
  • Staff
  • Message waiting indicator does NOT sound audibly (recipients may not be immediately aware that a message has arrived)
  • Limited number of simultaneous access ports to retrieve messages – busy signals may result from over-capacity retrieval attempts.
  • Many students do not access a campus hard-wired phone
  • Many people are not near their phone.
University Cable Channel 42 On campus televisions may tune to cable channel 42 to receive important information during emergency events.
  • Students
  • Faculty
  • Staff
  • There is no audible or visual indication that a message has been placed on the Channel 42 screen. Users may be watching campus television and not be aware that an alert has been posted to that channel.
  • Users must have access to campus cable
  • Power dependent.
University email Listservs B-Line Dateline The university manages several listservs that may be utilized during emergency incidents. B-Line is the official listserv for students and Dateline is the official listserv for staff and faculty. The listservs may be utilized to provide updates and critical information during emergency situations.
  • Students
  • Faculty
  • Staff
  • The delivery of B-Line and Dateline can take extended periods of time.
  • Many people do not check email on a regular basis.
  • Many students do not use the Binghamton.edu email as their primary address
  • Internet connectivity dependent.
Campus & Local Television and Radio Binghamton University will continue to work with traditional media outlets to distribute information regarding emergency events and weather cancellations.
  • Students
  • Faculty
  • Staff
  • Parents
  • Public
  • Media
  • Takes time to activate, especially after normal working hours.
Mobile Public Address Systems (Vehicle mounted) Emergency vehicles on the Binghamton University campus are equipped with public address systems, which may be utilized to convey emergency messages when other methods may not be available or appropriate. Please see the Binghamton University Emergency Alert Policies and Procedures document for details regarding the use of these emergency communication methods. All people located outdoors, on the Vestal campus.
  • Limited scope of audience (recipients must be near the device to comprehend the message)
  • Emergency personnel with these devices may be occupied with management of the critical incident and may not be available to communicate this type of message
Building Fire Alarm Systems Each campus building is equipped with a fire alarm system capable of initiating a building evacuation. Automatically or manually in the presence of fire / smoke. Emergency Responders
  • Must be manually activated from within each building
  • Most building not have voice-announcement capability
  • Limited to incidents such as building fires, natural gas leaks, hazardous material releases within buildings.
Campus Emergency 1-800 Telephone Numbers The Telecommunications office of ITS maintain multiple 1-800 telephone numbers that may be activated during an emergency incident. These numbers are designed to handle increased traffic of incoming calls to the University. Students Faculty Staff Parents Public Media  

 

Implementation

The personnel, processes and tools used to communicate with the campus community during an emergency will vary as a function of:

  Exigent (minutes) Operational (hours) Strategic (days)
Sources
  • Public Safety Officers
  • Dispatch Centers
  • Operations Staff
  • Communications and Marketing Staff
  • Emergency Operations Center (EOC)
  • Joint Information Center
  • Incident PIOs
  • Communications and Marketing Staff
  • President's Office
  • Senior Officers Group
Audiences
  • Campus Community
  • Affected Public
  • Campus Community
  • Affected Public
  • General Public
  • Stakeholders
  • General Public
  • Stakeholders
  • Regulators
  • Campus Community
Goals
  • Stimulate protective action
  • Elicit cooperation
  • Mitigate impacts
  • Facilitate recovery
  • Address approaching escalating developments (such as spread of infectious disease)
  • Advance programs
  • Enhance / protect brand

 

Activation Approval Hierarchy

Pre-approved messages (see "Pre-Approved Alerts" and "Pre-Approved Scenarios") do not require approval prior to distribution. Primary system administrators (Director of Emergency Management, Chief of Police, Senior Director of Communications and Marketing) may distribute these messages as necessary.

As practical, without jeopardizing life safety, the following individuals or entities shall be consulted prior to emergency message dissemination. If the preceding person or entity is not available, proceed down the list to the next available entity:

Decision Criteria

Five criteria shall be considered to determine the type of communication and who activates the warning:

Hazard Type

Life Safety / Property Protection

Urgency

Audience

Capabilities / Limitations

Alert Levels

The Emergency Alert System shall be flexible in its design and application. To communicate appropriate messages to the university community, the system shall be designed as a 'layered' or 'tiered' system.

Public Service Announcements

These messages are designed to be educational in nature and are not related to an active incident or threat. Examples of this type of message include preparedness steps for Fire Prevention Week, Flood Awareness Week, learning about campus safety programs, etc. Appropriate means for communicating these types of messages include the following methods:

Partial Alert - Information Only

When there is a need to share information that has the potential to impact lives or property, but there is no imminent threat, an informational message may be distributed. Examples of this type of message include National Weather Service weather statements (i.e. outlooks, watches), crime bulletins, etc. Appropriate means for communicating these types of messages include the following methods:

Full Alert

Incidents that pose an immediate threat to life safety shall be distributed as a Full Alert. Examples of this type of message include violent person(s), fire, severe weather warning, etc. Appropriate means for communicating these types of messages include the following methods:

Emergency Alert Activation Procedures

When any member of the campus community identifies a potentially dangerous situation, the Binghamton University Emergency Dispatch Center must be immediately notified by calling 911 (from a campus phone) or (607) 777-2222.

Upon receiving notification of a potentially dangerous situation requiring the use of the Emergency Alert System, the Dispatch Center, in addition to following standard dispatch policies, shall immediately notify a chief officer (i.e. Chief, Assistant Chief, Deputy Chief) or the Director of Emergency Management.

The chief or Director of Emergency Management shall be informed of the situation and the possible need to activate the Emergency Alert System.

Upon determining the need to activate the Emergency Alert System, the NYSUP chief officer or the Director of Emergency Management shall contact the Senior Director of Communications and Marketing. Communications and Marketing shall distribute the emergency message through all appropriate methods.

When practical and reasonable, all Emergency Alert System devices determined to be appropriate for the emergency situation shall be activated together or within minutes of each other.

Outdoor Siren – The outdoor siren should only be used when the NYSUP Administration wants individuals to seek shelter inside a building (shelter-in-place). The siren directs people to take immediate shelter inside the nearest building and, depending on the nature of the emergency, this action may not be appropriate.

Step-by-Step Procedures and Passcodes

Activation Procedures of the B-ALERT emergency notification system are maintained in a separate, secure document. Given the sensitive operational nature of the contents of the Activation Procedures document, it is considered to be CONFIDENTIAL and FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY.

Drills

Drills shall be conducted as often as NYSUP administration or the Director of Emergency Management finds appropriate in order to ensure that the system is effective and operational. The drills shall serve as a functional test of the systems, as well as an educational tool for the Binghamton University community. There would be two types of tests, an administrative test and a functional test which could be done together.

Following the administrative and functional test the NYSUP Administration would meet with representatives of Communications & Marketing, Physical Facilities, and Telecommunications to discuss quality improvement of the Emergency Alert System and procedures.

Registration

The only emergency communication component that requires registration is the text / electronic messaging of mobile devices. Binghamton University shall maintain a web portal where students, staff, and faculty may register their mobile devices.

Communications and Marketing shall place a link to the text / electronic messaging registration page on Binghamton University's B-Mobi smart phone application. Placing the registration link on the smart phone application will increase awareness of the service and facilitate the registration process.

Incoming freshmen and transfer students may be offered the opportunity to register during their orientation sessions.

Education

New students may be educated about the Emergency Alert System during freshmen or transfer orientation. A representative from NYSUP, Emergency Management and/or from Communications and Marketing may present information regarding the Emergency Alert System program and explain the importance of this system to the new incoming students and their families.

In order to educate the existing students, faculty, and staff Communications and Marketing shall use all appropriate methods to communication with the campus community. Possible methods include the university website, Inside BU, Dateline, B-Line, PipeDream, etc.

When drills are conducted, messages describing the Emergency Alert System and steps to take if it were a real emergency should be communicated.

Pre-Approved Scenarios

ALL CLEAR

Who authorizes this alert to be sent? Individual who authorized the original alert.            
Who is the intended audience? Same audience who was targeted for the original alert.            
What alert methods are to be used?  B-Alert Text B-Alert Email Siren BU Home Page BU Alert Line BU Alerts Page LED Signs Chan. 42 Campus Voice Mail RSS Social Media Media Outlets 2-Way Radios
Same methods that were used to send the original alert.
 When to use? When all hazards / dangerous conditions no longer present safety concerns.
 When not to use? If there is any suspicion that a dangerous condition still exists.

 

CRIME BULLETIN

Who authorizes this alert to be sent? NYS University Police: Chief, Assistant Chief of Police
Who is the intended audience? All students, staff, faculty and visitors
What alert methods are to be used? B-Alert Text B-Alert Email Siren BU Home Page BU Alert Line BU Alerts Page LED Signs Chan. 42 Campus Voice Mail RSS Social Media Media Outlets 2-Way Radios
  X       X              
When to use? When it is necessary to share criminal activity information such as Clery Act timely notifications.
When not to use? When an immediate danger is present.

 

DANGEROUS SITUATION
Who authorizes this alert to be sent? Director of Emergency Management, Chief of Police, Assistant Chief of Police
Who is the intended audience? Every person potentially in danger.
What alert methods are to be used? B-Alert Text B-Alert Email Siren BU Home Page BU Alert Line BU Alerts Page LED Signs Chan. 42 Campus Voice Mail RSS Social Media Media Outlets 2-Way Radios
X X   X X X X X X X X X X
When to use? When there is potential for fatal or serious injuries to individuals.
When not to use? If the threat is no longer present and University Police is reasonably confident the danger no longer exists.
Examples: Violent person/act of violence, suicide bomber, hostage situation, civil unrest, terrorist attack, credible bomb or terrorist threat, suspicious device found

 

GUNSHOTS – STILL ACTIVE
Who authorizes this alert to be sent? Director of Emergency Management, Chief of Police, Assistant Chief of Police
Who is the intended audience? Every person on the campus where the incident is occurring.
What alert methods are to be used? B-ALERT Text B-Alert Email Siren BU Home Page BU Alert Line BU Alerts Page LED Signs Chan. 42 Campus Voice Mail RSS Social Media Media Outlets 2-Way Radios
X X X X X X X   X X X X X
When to use?
  • Credible report of gunshots on university property
  • Credible reports of gunshots on property in close proximity to Binghamton University property.
When not to use? If, in the time it takes to send alert messages, the source(s) of the gunshots have been discovered and University Police are reasonably confident the situation has been confined AND the danger no longer exists.

 

GUNSHOTS – NO LONGER ACTIVE (Danger is gone)
Who authorizes this alert to be sent? Director of Emergency Management, Chief of Police, Assistant Chief of Police
Who is the intended audience? Every person on the campus where the incident has occurred.
What alert methods are to be used? B-ALERT Text B-ALERT Email Siren BU Home Page BU Alert Line BU Alerts Page LED Signs Chan. 42 Campus Voice Mail RSS Social Media

Media Outlets

2-Way Radios
X X   X X X X X X X X X  
When to use? If the source(s) of the gunshots have been discovered and University Police are reasonably confident that the situation has been confined AND the danger no longer exists.
When not to use? If there is any suspicion that a dangerous condition still exists.

 

MISSING PERSON
Who authorizes this alert to be sent? Director of Emergency Management, Chief of Police, Assistant Chief of Police
Who is the intended audience? All students, staff, faculty and visitors
What alert methods are to be used? B-ALERT Text B-Alert Email Siren BU Home Page BU Alert Line BU Alerts Page LED Signs Chan. 42 Campus Voice Mail RSS Social Media Media Outlets 2-Way Radios
  X     X X   X X X X X  
When to use? When University Police believes the assistance of the campus community is necessary to locate a missing person.
When not to use? When University Police do not reasonably believe that the assistance of the campus community would help resolve the situation.

 

TESTING
Who authorizes this alert to be sent? Director of Emergency Management
Who is the intended audience? All students, staff, faculty and visitors
What alert methods are to be used? B-Alert Text B-Alert Email Siren BU Home Page BU Alert Line BU Alerts Page LED Signs Chan. 42 Campus Voice Mail RSS Social Media Media Outlets 2-Way Radios
To be determined by the Director of Emergency Management based on the needs of the test
When to use? When a test of the system(s) has been authorized.
When not to use? During any real/active incident.

 

TORNADO WARNING
Who authorizes this alert to be sent? Director of Emergency Management, Chief of Police, Assistant Chief of Police
Who is the intended audience? All students, staff, faculty and visitors
What alert methods are to be used? B-Alert Text B-Alert Email Siren BU Home Page BU Alert Line BU Alerts Page LED Signs Chan. 42 Campus Voice Mail RSS Social Media Media Outlets 2-Way Radios
X X X X X X X X X X X X X
When to use? When the National Weather Service issues a Tornado Warning for the local area AND Binghamton University property is located in the NWS polygon warning area.
When not to use? When Binghamton University property does not fall directly in the NWS polygon warning area.

 

URGENT ANNOUNCEMENT
Who authorizes this alert to be sent? University President, Senior Officers, Director of Emergency Management, Chief of Police, Assistant Chief of Police
Who is the intended audience? All students, staff, faculty and visitors
What alert methods are to be used? B-Alert Text B-Alert Email Siren BU Home Page BU Alert Line BU Alerts Page LED Signs Chan. 42 Campus Voice Mail RSS Social Media Media Outlets 2-Way Radios
  X   X X X X X   X X    
When to use? When it is necessary to communicate information related to campus operations.
When not to use? When there is an immediate threat to individual safety and/or security.
Examples: Cancellation of classes, campus closures, early dismissal, service disruptions, etc.

 

MEDICAL EMERGENCY (PANDEMIC) and/or PUBLIC HEALTH STATEMENT
Who authorizes this alert to be sent? Binghamton University Health Services, Broome County Department of Health, NYS Department of Health
Who is the intended audience? All students, staff, faculty and visitors
What alert methods are to be used? B-Alert Text B-Alert Email Siren BU Home Page BU Alert Line BU Alerts Page LED Signs Chan. 42 Campus Voice Mail RSS Social Media Media Outlets 2-Way Radios
  X   X X X   X   X X    
When to use? When it is necessary to communicate information related to a confirmed contagious disease constituting a campus wide threat (i.e. pandemic)
When not to use? When appropriate authorities have not confirmed the medical emergency.
Examples: Disease outbreak (i.e. meningitis, tuberculosis, H1N1, etc.).
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Last Updated: 4/7/14