SUNY Cortland’s new emergency website is now accessible to all students, parents, faculty, staff and community members at emergency.cortland.edu.
The website is designed as both a user-friendly resource for campus emergency procedures and as the College’s primary communication mechanism during a crisis.
It includes general information about signing up for New York Alert ¾ a system of text messages delivered to mobile devices shortly after an incident occurs ¾ as well as basic preparation information for students, parents and the media. All members of the SUNY Cortland community are urged to sign up for New York Alert to make sure they receive the most recent information on fast-moving, potentially dangerous situations. They can sign up through the new emergency website or directly at: http://www.nyalert.gov.
The new website’s primary feature, however, is a series of emergency icons that offer quick, user-oriented instructions about what to do in a variety of crisis situations. They range from severe weather emergencies to bomb threats and active shooters on campus. All members of the campus community are encouraged to explore the new site and familiarize themselves with the different situations and recommended responses.
The website is housed on a remotely located server, so it will remain available even if the main College website goes down. It also is built to be responsive to changing screen sizes so it can be easily used from hand-held devices as well as computer screens.
During situations where a crisis is life-threatening or requires immediate action on the part of students, faculty, staff and visitors, the new emergency website will transform into an emergency blog. In this mode, the page will take over the entire SUNY Cortland website, so no visitor to the site will be able to click on a different College Web page.
The blog will provide accurate, official information on the emergency event as soon as College officials receive it. All students, faculty, staff, parents and news media are urged to use this page as their definitive source of information. In times of crisis, misinformation or rumor can often cause people to respond inappropriately or even dangerously. Because of that, the College’s crisis communications team is committed to updating the blog as accurately and rapidly as possible. Those blog posts will be used as the basis for official SUNY Cortland messages sent through Facebook or Twitter.
“SUNY Cortland is a very safe campus, but disaster can strike anywhere, at any time,” said College President Erik J. Bitterbaum. “It is important that all of us know how to respond. Although we may be caught by surprise, we want to make sure we aren’t caught unprepared.”
The new website evolved as part of the updating process for the plan. An emergency response committee appointed by Bitterbaum re-wrote the lengthy document. The committee includes: University Police Chief Steven Dangler, Associate Vice President for Facilities Management Nasrin Parvizi, Associate Vice President for Communications Gradin Avery, Associate Provost for Information Systems Amy Berg, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Christopher Kuretich, Environmental Health and Safety Director Glenn Wright and Public Relations Director Frederic Pierce.
The plan sets up a communications hierarchy to evaluate all incidents and quickly notify all appropriate individuals. It works essentially like this:
University Police are the first responders to any incident on campus. They immediately determine whether to activate the New York Alert system and decide whether the crisis communications team is needed.
That team, which mirrors the makeup of the emergency response committee created by the president, quickly crafts the appropriate messages needed to keep the campus safe and begins communicating through a wide range of media. The crisis communications team then notifies the President’s Cabinet and other key players. That larger group of people, which changes depending on the needs of the incident, is called the Emergency Response Resource Group.
This group addresses the emergency situation and notifies all affected building administrators, who are charged with notifying students, faculty, staff, visitors and anyone else in campus facilities. Ideally, most of those people will already be aware of the emergency through New York Alert notifications and the efforts of the crisis communications team.