Updated March 2017
The safety and well-being of students, faculty, staff, and visitors is a high priority for the University. Should a significant emergency or dangerous situation develop that presents an immediate threat to the health or safety to persons on campus, University personnel will immediately respond, evaluate, and confront the threat. Upon confirmation that a threat exists, the University will provide an emergency notification and updates as appropriate to the University community. A public version of the University’s Emergency Operation Plan can be found on the Emergency Procedures webpage at https://ready.ua.edu/plan/.
The University of Alabama’s Emergency Operation Plan directs the University Police (UAPD) to respond and manage campus emergencies with oversight by the Emergency Preparedness Response Policy Group (EPRPG). The EPRPG is made up of key University officials representing senior leadership positions.
The Division of Strategic Communications is responsible for emergency notification and crisis communication; for redundancy, UAPD and the Office of Emergency Preparedness will serve as a backup to Strategic Communications.
An emergency notification is an urgent official notification regarding a significant emergency or dangerous situation that may compromise the health and safety of members of the campus community. Typically an emergency notification is provided without delay upon confirmation of an immediate or impending threat and empowers the recipient to take appropriate action to minimize injury or loss of life.
In the event of a campus emergency, UAPD along with other appropriate response agencies (e.g. fire department, gas company, etc.) will immediately respond and investigate the threat. If a significant emergency or dangerous situation involving an immediate threat to the health and safety of students or employees is confirmed, UAPD will notify Strategic Communications (24/7), who will initiate an emergency notification to the campus community using some or all of the following systems depending on the circumstance: (1) UA Alerts (email, phone calls, and text messages using an external system); (2) Campus PA system (internal and/or external); (3) Internal campus e-mail system; (4) UA Home Page; (5) Print/Broadcast Media; (6) Social Media, and (7) Digital Signage.
An exception to this policy may occur in those instances where the notification will, in the professional judgment of the EPRPG, UAPD, or Incident Command, compromise efforts to assist a victim or to contain, respond to, or otherwise mitigate the emergency. Once the incident has concluded, Strategic Communications will use the same systems to broadcast an “All Clear” notification or information regarding the resolution of the emergency.
In special circumstances, UAPD or the Office of Emergency Preparedness may trigger an emergency notification to the campus community via UA Alerts or the Campus PA System. In the event an alert is triggered, UAPD will notify Strategic Communications; Strategic Communications will then assume responsibility for further communications.
Emergency Response and Notification Process
- UAPD and other appropriate agencies respond to a reported emergency, evaluate the situation, and confirm there is a campus immediate threat
- UAPD and other appropriate response agencies assess whether the threat is area-specific or campus wide
- UAPD notifies Strategic Communications
- Strategic Communications drafts or selects pre-scripted message
- Strategic Communications activates emergency notification systems
- UAPD coordinates with Strategic Communications and provides updated information when available
- Strategic Communications posts updates or communicates “All Clear” as appropriate
Crisis communication is the continued or ongoing update of information regarding a significant emergency or dangerous situation.
After the initial emergency notification, continued or updated crisis communications will take place on the University’s website (www.ua.edu), social media, and through the local media (radio, television).
Students, faculty, and staff are directed to monitor the website and local media for updated crisis information. This will also enable the larger community to receive emergency information.
Determining Appropriate Segment of Community
In many instances, an emergency notification will include the entire campus population (students, faculty, and staff). However, during holidays, weekends or other periods outside of normal business hours, or under circumstances where the nature of the emergency supports an area-specific notification, the notification may go to only those persons who are believed to be affected. In this situation, UA Alerts could be utilized to notify a particular segment of the community (e.g. students only) and the Campus PA system could be utilized to notify occupants of a particular building or buildings where the system is deployed.
Content and Timing of Notification
Strategic Communications is responsible for drafting and approving emergency messages and crisis communication; Strategic Communications will determine, without delay, the content of the notification and initiate the notification system. To expedite the notification process, Strategic Communications has drafted pre-scripted emergency messages for possible campus emergencies. These messages are posted within UA Alerts and the Campus PA system so that they can be immediately accessed and dispatched.
Should an unexpected emergency occur, Strategic Communications will quickly draft and disseminate an appropriate emergency message.
In special circumstances, UAPD or the Office of Emergency Preparedness may draft and disseminate an appropriate emergency message.
In the event a building evacuation is required, the fire alarm, campus PA system, or emergency personnel will notify occupants to leave the building. A yearly fire drill with a required building evacuation is conducted by the Office of Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) for campus buildings. The drill is documented by EHS and includes the date, time, and description of the drill.
Should a campus evacuation be required, UAPD will notify the EPRPG under normal circumstances. Depending on the scope of the incident, the EPRPG will order a partial or full campus evacuation as necessary.
In special circumstances, UAPD may order a building, area, or campus evacuation directly.
When an evacuation is ordered, affected students, faculty, and staff will be required to leave the evacuated area. In the event of a full campus evacuation, UAPD will work with UA Parking and Transportation to assist motorists leaving campus. If a prolonged evacuation is required, the Red Cross may be requested to shelter those students who are unable to return home and need assistance.
The Division of Strategic Communications will test the UA Alerts system annually by sending a test message to the entire campus community. The test will be documented and include the date, time, and notification results. In conjunction with this test, Strategic Communications will publicize the web addresses of the Annual Campus Security and Fire Safety Report and the Office of Emergency Preparedness. Both websites contain the University’s emergency response, notification, and evacuation procedures. Strategic Communications will also annually test the Campus PA system.
This policy will be published in the Annual Campus Security and Fire Safety Report (pdf).