Colleges Use Social Media to Defuse Bomb Threats

Erik Bernstein crisis communications, crisis management, Crisis Prevention, Crisis Response, Erik Bernstein, Jonathan Bernstein, school crisis management, social media Leave a Comment

Crisis management that reaches its intended audience

This past Friday, the University of Texas at Austin and North Dakota State both received bomb threats from unidentified individuals. The obvious first step after receiving such a threat is to clear the area, but how do you notify the tens of thousands of staff and students that are constantly flitting in and out of campus and dormitory space?

In an interview with Mashable’s Eric Larson, Gary Susswein, director of media relations at UT Austin shared the way social media fits into their crisis management process:

“We’ve got several protocol in place here at UT Austin,” he said. “The first is a text message system that 67,000 people are signed up for, including students, staff, faculty, and a lot of parents and community members.”

Susswein said that the people registered in the system are alerted with an “emergency test” text every month. For “real deal” instances like today, he said, it’s the same practice, only an email, Facebook post and tweet are sent out in addition to the text message.

“Today, our social media coordinator literally had a seat at the table with our university officials as they were figuring out what was going on,” Susswein said. “So, when the time was appropriate, we got the messages out immediately, across all channels.”

North Dakota State officials also put out a blast across all channels, including posting this update on their Facebook wall:

“The following message was just provided on Notifind: NDSU is requiring all employees and students to leave campus by 10:15, including residence halls, downtown buildings, and agricultural facilities. NDSU received a bomb threat, prompting this evacuation. Updates will follow. Do not call local emergency numbers to permit emergency lines to remain open for emergency calls.”

Containing essential emergency information, specific guidelines on what to do, and even a holding statement, messaging like this shows you when an organization really has its act together.

With the vast, vast majority of people carting around  a smartphone and habitually checking their favorite social connections, it only makes sense for emergency notification to move in this direction, and with the relative ease and low cost of implementation, there’s no excuse not to put this to use for crisis management yourself.

The BCM Blogging Team

Leave a Reply