Independent review of UAH Alert system during February shooting - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Independent review of UAH Alert system during February shooting

 

  

HUNTSVILLE, AL - James Lee Witt Associates of Washington, D.C. has finished it's independent review of the emergency alert system and crisis communications capabilities of The University of Alabama in Huntsville.

 

The company delivered it's findings to UAH officials Friday. The company was hired by the University of Alabama System following the February shooting on the university's campus.

The report focuses on the emergency notification and crisis communication systems, processes and procedures at UAHuntsville and their implementation during the incident.

"UAHuntsville performed admirably and exemplary in many ways during the February incident," the report states. "Additionally, UAHuntsville has worked diligently to improve emergency notification and crisis communications in recent years. The incident offers an opportunity for UAHuntsville to review its policies and procedures and improve future response to emergencies."

The university has taken steps since the shooting to make improvements in those areas and will continue to focus efforts to enhance the system and implement the recommendations of James Lee Witt Associates, said UAHuntsville President David Williams.

"We appreciate the thorough review of our capabilities conducted by Witt Associates," said President Williams. "We are proud of the reaction by the people on our campus during this terrible event, and the important role everyone played in that response has been acknowledged in this report."

He noted the tremendous response and support from a variety of sources resulting from the tragedy. He cited the assistance of local law enforcement agencies as well as the greater Huntsville area, and the University of Alabama System in the days, weeks and months to follow.

Williams said it's important for the campus to learn from this tragedy.

"We have been working and will continue to improve and strengthen our response to emergencies and find improvement in our ability to communicate in emergency situations," he said.

Emergency management officials on campus have taken numerous steps to improve the UAlert system. Actions put in place since the incident include:

  • Additional responsible campus officials are now authorized to issue emergency notifications
  • Assignment, clarification and expansion of roles, responsibilities for UAlert activation
  • Additional pre-scripted messages have been developed to cover a much wider range of potential emergency and crisis situations
  • Steps are being taken to improve emergency communications awareness and training
  • Active steps are being taken to implement a more robust IT infrastructure that will be capable of supporting increased web traffic capacity.

Additional steps are being taken to add more improvements in these areas in the coming months, according to campus officials.

The university will immediately begin the process of melding recommendations from the Witt report into the university's efforts.  

James Lee Witt Associates – Report synopsis

Observations:

  • The University of Alabama in Huntsville has made a concerted effort to improve the safety and security of the campus in recent years.
  • Numerous emergency notification and crisis communications processes and procedures have been implemented by the university prior to the incident.
  • UAHuntsville personnel performed admirably and exemplary in many ways during the February 12th incident.

Recommendations:

Emergency notification

  • Develop procedures that detail processes, roles and responsibilities for emergency notification at UAHuntsville.
  • Expand the ability to issue immediate emergency notification messages using the vendor-hosted emergency alert system.
  • Consider a multi-layered suite of emergency notification tools to reach as many members of the campus population as possible.
  • Increase education and awareness of the UAlert system and implement education and training about UAHuntsville's emergency notification system on a regular basis.

Crisis communication

  • Create, formalize and codify a crisis communications plan.
  • Creative an effective and logical organizational structure to activate and administer crisis communications and information dissemination during an emergency.
  • Define methods for information dissemination during a crisis
  • Enhance IT infrastructure on the UAHuntsville campus to ensure that it is able to support all methods used for crisis communication.
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