FHSU updates crisis policies, procedures: New electronic notification system will alert students, faculty, staff to dangerous situations

After a careful review of its policies and procedures for dealing with a crisis or the threat of a crisis, Fort Hays State University has officially adopted a new Crisis Management Plan that includes an electronic notification system that will deliver alerts by telephone, text messaging and e-mail.

Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, and his Cabinet recently approved the updated Crisis Management Plan, which includes a contract with a national company, LeaderAlert, to provide the electronic notification system.

In order to receive alerts via the notification system, all FHSU students, faculty and staff should immediately enter their emergency contact information by going to the university Web site -- www.fhsu.edu -- and clicking on "TigerTracks/Course Schedule" at the bottom of the left-hand column, and then updating their personal information on TigerTracks.

TigerTracks will accept the emergency contact information updates beginning Friday morning, and the database will be loaded to LeaderAlert on Tuesday afternoon. When a person receives a call from the system, it is necessary to answer in order to activate the message.

"The emergency notification system can be effective only for those who have provided their emergency contact information," President Hammond said. "Therefore, I urge everyone in the university community to update their personal information on TigerTracks without delay."

Students who fail to update their contact information on TigerTracks will not be able to get their grades at the end of this semester, and upgrading of contact information will be a prerequisite to enrollment in future semesters. All faculty and staff are strongly encouraged to update their contact information for the sake of their personal safety.

Anyone who needs assistance in accessing TigerTracks or updating their personal information should contact the university's CTC HelpDesk at 628-5276. The database will be updated to LeaderAlert periodically so that new and updated contact information is included in the emergency notification system.

Besides the addition of the electronic notification system that will be used in cases of imminent danger, the new Crisis Management Plan consolidates crisis policies, procedures and protocols into one document, spells out more clearly the roles and duties of the members of the expanded Crisis Management Team, and clarifies the "threat assessment" protocol that is designed to identify and provide treatment for individuals who might pose a danger to themselves or others.

The crisis policy states that all responses by the university "will be guided by the paramount concern of protecting and preserving human life above all other considerations." FHSU's former crisis plan had proved effective in dealing with various emergencies and crises. The review that led to the new plan has proved timely in light of the recent rash of violent incidents on college campuses, beginning with the mass murder spree last spring at Virginia Tech.

When the university becomes aware of an individual who might pose a threat to the campus community, personnel from the University Police Department and the Kelly Center, with possible assistance from High Plains Mental Health Center, will follow established protocols to counsel or commit the individual. If their assessment of the situation suggests that it represents a crisis, they will notify the Crisis Management Team. Likewise, university personnel will notify the Crisis Management Team in the case of an actual event that represents a crisis or the threat of a crisis.

The police, Kelly Center counselors or other university officials will deal with the event according to their professional protocols, which include protections of confidentiality in certain instances. If they believe the event might create a crisis for individuals beyond those who are directly involved, they will contact the crisis team coordinator at the earliest opportunity.

The crisis team coordinator will immediately convene the Crisis Management Team. Acting on available information, the Crisis Management Team will decide, in consultation with the president, whether to designate the event as a crisis. The university's first priority during a crisis is to protect and preserve human life. Therefore, when a crisis determination is made, the next step is to evaluate whether the crisis presents an imminent danger.

If imminent danger exists, the crisis team coordinator will use the university's emergency notification system and all other means available to issue a warning to students, faculty and staff. Those warnings will be issued at the earliest possible moment that enough reliable information is available to give helpful instructions.

The emergency notification system will not be activated for crises in which no imminent danger of death or bodily harm exists. When appropriate, the crisis team coordinator will use the campus e-mail system, media and other means to notify students, faculty, staff and the general public about crises that do not pose an immediate danger. Those notifications will be issued as soon as possible after sufficient details about the crisis are available.

In the event of an ongoing crisis, the crisis team coordinator will continue to send timely notices to the campus and the public throughout the duration of the crisis. The Crisis Management Team will coordinate with appropriate campus offices and outside agencies throughout the duration of an event.

After a crisis has ended, the Crisis Management Team will conduct a post-event evaluation of all aspects of the crisis, including crisis communication, and the crisis team coordinator will report to the campus and the public the results of that evaluation.

"The plan will always be subject to review and modification as we learn from actual events how to make it more effective," President Hammond said.

The plan defines a crisis as "an event that involves death, serious injury, property damage or destruction, disruption of normal operations, compromise of data or information, harm to financial assets, damage to the image or goodwill of the university, or the possibility of any such results." The victim, someone else involved in an event or a witness to the event should immediately call 911. If in doubt, it is always best to assume the event should be reported. The Crisis Management Team will initiate training sessions for the university community to assist in crisis response preparedness.

The members of the Crisis Management Team are:
∑ Coordinator: Kent Steward, Director, University Relations
∑ Todd Powell, General Counsel and Executive Assistant to the President
∑ Ed Howell, Director of Police and Security
∑ Herb Songer, Vice President for Student Affairs
∑ Kenton Olliff, Director, Kelly Center
∑ Kenneth Jacobs, Co-Director, Physical Plant
∑ Joey Linn, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and Registrar
∑ David Schmidt, Director, Computing and Telecommunications Center
∑ Shana Meyer, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs
∑ Kathy Dale, Interim Assistant Dean of Professional Services, College of Education and Technology
∑ Mike Barnett, Vice President of Administration and Finance
∑ Robert Scott, Chair, Department of Justice Studies

Questions about the Crisis Management Plan and the emergency notification system may be directed to Kent Steward in the Office of University Relations at 628-4208. The complete Crisis Management Plan, including all policies, procedures and protocols, is available at www.fhsu.edu/crisis/ on the FHSU Web site.

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Office of University Relations   |  600 Park Street   |  Hays, KS  67601-4099
(785) 628-4206   |   Fax (785) 628-4152
Kent Steward, Director   |  ksteward@fhsu.edu  |  Kurt Beyers, Assistant Director   |  kbeyers@fhsu.edu