September is National Preparedness Month and we have been highlighting the importance of preparedness in local communities and in K-12 schools and districts. Recently, we came across a story from the University of San Diego reminding us of the importance of being prepared, especially on college campuses. While nearly 5 million people across Southern California, Arizona and Northern Mexico were without electricity, students at USD only experienced a mere 30 seconds of power loss during the county-wide blackout that occurred earlier this month. How did the campus stay powered? Vice Provost and Chief Information Officer, Chris Wessells, credits the university’s excellent emergency planning program.

Thanks to a couple of very forward-thinking campus officials, an extensive system of back-up generators were installed and helped the USD campus maintain power throughout the blackout. While not all urgent situations have such an obvious or tangible preparation tactic, ensuring the ability to communicate directly with stakeholders during an urgent situation has often proved to be a powerful, and sometimes necessary, preparation measure. For universities and colleges, the safety and security of students is paramount, and having an emergency preparedness and crisis communication plan in place is vital.

Located 40 miles from the Gulf Coast, Lamar University is no stranger to tropical weather. In 2005, as Hurricane Rita poised to sweep through campus, Lamar University relied on the university website to communicate critical safety and evacuation notices to students, leaving those without an internet connection able to receive important information. A few years later, as Hurricane Humberto threatened the campus, Lamar officials turned to Blackboard Connect to help establish a reliable system to communicate with students, faculty and staff. As the hurricane forced the campus to close for three days, school officials were able to maintain contact with the campus community by sending messages via phone, text messages and email throughout the duration of the storm.

Having partnered with universities across the country, the Blackboard Connect team can help administrators and campus safety leaders prepare for these situations by planning notifications and crafting messages. We have also created some additional materials to help clients inform their communities about their urgent communication plans and encourage people to sign up to receive alerts from Blackboard Connect. Learn more about how Blackboard Connect is helping universities enhance emergency preparedness plans by viewing our recent Brainshark, “Are You Prepared for An Emergency?”

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