In case of an emergency . . . listen up

Maria Nann

Kent State has public notification systems, procedures in place to keep students safe

Over the summer, university officials have worked diligently to ensure they are doing all they can to protect students in emergency situations.

The university, in collaboration with the Department of Public Safety and Police Services, has put into place a new public announcement system that will help notify students, faculty and staff of any emergency situations on campus.

Dean Tondiglia, associate director of public safety, said the university started installing the PA system when the spring semester ended. The design and preparation for this project occurred a year ago.

“We decided we wanted to enhance our ability to notify the public,” he said. “We found that the alert monitors worked well and that integrating it into a PA system would enhance our ability to notify the public.”

The system that was put into place in 2001 after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks sent emergency notifications to one person in each building. It was that person’s responsibility to make everyone else in the building aware of the emergency. Tondiglia said each building on campus had at least one alert monitor in key areas.

The decision to convert that system into a PA system, Tondiglia said, came after the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007. In the new system, everybody will be made aware of an emergency at the same time.

Tondiglia said the university has emergency procedures in place for different circumstances, but he hopes the PA system will better enable the university to make the public aware of such situations.

“We think they’ll notice the emergency situations more now because they’ll hear it throughout their residence halls and academic buildings,” he said. “Hopefully, it will make them more aware of situations.”

John Peach, director of public safety and Kent State police chief, said Kent State is in the top 1 percent in the country in its ability to notify the public of emergency situations.

“The university has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to enable us to respond and react as well as possible to an emergency,” he said. “There are a lot of relatively new safety measures now that didn’t exist at the beginning of last school year, and we’re excited.”

Aside from the new PA system, Peach said the university is well-equipped with other forms of notifications to keep its students and faculty safe.

A text messaging system is not new to Kent State this year, but it has been enhanced, Peach said. In the event that an emergency takes place, faculty and staff, as well as students, will be notified of the situation via cell phone. Students and faculty must sign up for the system, called FlashAlerts.

“We’re still trying to encourage people to sign up,” Peach said.

The university also sends out notifications in emergency situations via cable television, which is available in all residence and academic halls on campus. In the case of an emergency, the university will send out a banner and an audible notification on the TV.

Peach said the university Web site also has a place for emergency notifications, though the university is still experimenting with it. If there is an emergency, a flashing banner on the Web site explains the situation. The nice thing about the Web site, Peach said, is that anyone, including parents, can see what is taking place and receive up-to-date information.

The university sends out emergency notices to all Kent State e-mail addresses as well.

Peach said the city of Kent has an AM radio broadcast station the university uses during emergency situations. The university would broadcast with up-to-date information on 1620 AM.

Kent State has developed and continues to update an emergency preparedness manual, the Emergency Guide, which can be found on the Public Safety and Kent State Police Web sites. Peach suggested students and faculty review the material in the guide to prepare for any and all emergency situations.

Although there is no way to predict any emergency situation, Peach said his advice for preparing for all types of situations is to review the emergency plans online.

“The more you know, the more calm and knowledgeable you will be to safely ride out whatever the emergency is,” he said.

Contact principal reporter Maria Nann at [email protected].