HSU campus alerts used for imminent threats and emergencies

Multitude of methods used to inform HSU campus community

When we send out an alert, it’s actionable. We are telling you that it is a matter of life and safety.”

Cris Jones Koczera, HSU Emergency Management Coordinator

On-campus emergencies can happen at any given moment and the details could be messy, but with clear communication methods in place safety can continue being a priority.

Humboldt State University has extensive methods of communication between campus and the outside community, such as timely warnings, which are text messages, the Emergency Public Address System, KHSU 90.5, the Rave Guardian app and a calling number 707-826-INFO (4636).

“When we send out an alert, it’s actionable,” said Cris Jones Koczera, the HSU emergency management coordinator. “We are telling you that it is a matter of life and safety.”

The systems are used according to the type of emergency situation at hand. In worst-case scenarios, all methods of communication will be used. According to Koczera, these threats and hazards are clumped into three categories: natural, technological and man-made.

Koczera said that examples of man-made situations are active shooter emergencies or acts of terrorism. Technological incidents are infrastructure failures or glitches in systems. And lastly, natural emergencies can be phenomena such as earthquakesor tsunamis.

“If we look at what we consider an emergency for the campus, it is defined as anything that truly exceeds day-to- day response capacity,” Koczera said.

UPD and MarCom (Marketing and Communication) also use the systems to inform the community of imminent threats.

University Chief of Police Donn Peterson said they work with MarCom to compose messages related to a case via social media, flyers and traditional news outlets. The information they release to the public can help identify possible suspects, alert people, prevent more crimes and keep the community safe.

A picture of an old HSU timely alert sent out by HSU on Dec. 4, 2017. The message was warning campus members of a supect who commited sexiual battery and who continued to pose a threat to others.

The Jeanne Clery Act mandates that universities disclose security policy and crime statistics, Peterson said. It also serves as a guideline for sending out timely alerts.

“Compliance with the law is us dealing more with threats,” Peterson said. “If somebody may pose a threat, we generate those as quickly as we
can.”

Peterson and Koczera said that in some situations they might take more
time composing messages before sending them out.

“You might not know you have a threat until you get a little deeper in
something,” Peterson said. “As soon as you discern that there’s a threat
to campus, you trigger the timely warning.”

Mayra Sanchez, center liaison for the Latinx Center for Academic
Excellence, said that they encourage people to sign up for text messages.

“I’m terrified if a school shooting happens or if something else alarming happens that I should know of,” Sanchez said.

However, if something more complicated arises or if an unclear incident occurs, such as white supremacists walking around campus or flyers advertising a specific group, then it’s likely that a notification will not be sent out unless there’s a direct and imminent threat.

Peterson said that a notification like that isn’t a police decision, but rather a campus one.

“We could have additional opt in for that type of stuff,” Koczera said. “But it’s a slippery slope. At what point does it become too much, and who takes the time to decide what has that potential and what doesn’t?”

The key goal with timely warnings and other methods of emergency communication is to ensure the safety of the community. HSU officials said messages will be sent for necessary situations.

“It can be tricky,” said Associate Vice President of MarCom Frank Whitlatch. “The last thing we want is to over message. Don’t cry wolf and have people ignore their messages.”

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