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UPDATED: September 1, 2011 4:22:39 PM EDT
FORMAL NOTICE: University Announces New Emergency Notification Plan

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

We’re pleased to announce some important changes in when and how the University will contact you about a campus safety issue. The result is a clearer, more straightforward approach to letting you know what to expect up front. Effective today, we’re now using three types of alerts – emergency warning, timely warning and informational notification.

EMERGENCY WARNING: Emergency warning refers to a significant emergency or dangerous situation on campus involving an immediate threat to health or safety. We’ll sound the sirens and send text messages to registered cell phones immediately after a threat is confirmed. That’s not a departure from our previous plan. The scenarios for situations on campus leading to siren activation are an armed and dangerous person, a chemical hazard, a tornado warning issued for Orange County, or some other significant general threat to safety.

TIMELY WARNING: Timely warning refers to a notification about a Clery Act crime when the information is available so people can protect themselves or their property from similar crimes (see the explanation of the Clery Act below). This notification will occur only if the Department of Public Safety determines there is a continuing danger to the campus AND if issuing the timely warning won’t compromise law enforcement efforts to address the crime. The notification will begin as a general alert text message: “!!Alert Carolina!! Police responding to serious campus incident. Not an immediate health or safety threat. See alertcarolina.unc.edu.” That text will be followed by updates on the Alert Carolina website, http://alertcarolina.unc.edu, and additional messages sent to you as new confirmed information becomes available. The sirens will not sound. In addition to issuing a timely warning for Clery Act crimes, timely warnings will be sent if a tornado watch has been issued for Orange County.

INFORMATIONAL NOTIFICATION: Informational notification is for a less-urgent situation that involves health or safety issues, but doesn’t pose an immediate threat. We’ll use email messages and postings to the Alert Carolina website, http://alertcarolina.unc.edu, to keep you informed. Examples include a situation in which a perpetrator in a violent crime has been arrested or is no longer on campus or there is a major natural gas leak that doesn’t warrant evacuation.

These changes in ways to communicate campus safety issues came as a result of Chancellor Thorp’s request last April for a review of the plans to notify the campus during an emergency. Since then, we’ve gathered feedback from senior administrators and student leaders from the Chancellor’s Student Advisory Committee, Student Government, the Graduate and Professional Student Federation, and the Residence Hall Association. Everyone involved has given excellent and practical feedback that reinforced how important it was for the campus community to hear from us in a timely manner even when a situation didn’t pose an immediate safety risk to the campus.

Also last spring, the UNC system asked campuses to look at a protocol developed at Virginia Tech to notify its community about certain crimes covered under the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, http://www.higheredcenter.org/mandates/clery-act. The University has been long committed to complying with this federal law, which requires universities to provide timely warnings of crimes that pose a safety threat to the campus community.

We’ve blended the advice from our student leaders with some elements of the Virginia Tech model to improve and enhance the University’s previous plan. We’ve posted the new plan, “Emergency Notification Protocols,” on the Alert Carolina website, http://alertcarolina.unc.edu, where you’ll also find a poster showing the three alert types and how we’ll communicate with you. We encourage you to download or print the poster and keep it in a prominent place for easy reference. Also, the University’s YouTube Channel, http://bit.ly/prIC2m, features a video explaining the new plan.

Last week, in communicating about precautions being taken for Hurricane Irene, we told you about adding the Red Cross’ Safe and Well List to the ways in which you can let your family know you are okay during an extended incident in which cell phone service may be unavailable. To learn more about this important resource, see http://www.alertcarolina.unc.edu/go/doc/1395/1177155.

Please take the time to review these changes to our emergency communications process so you can do your part to make campus safety a priority. (If you have not registered your cell phone for emergency text messages, see

http://www.alertcarolina.unc.edu/go/doc/1395/194468 .)

Sincerely,

Jeff McCracken

Director of Public Safety

This email is sponsored by: Department of Public Safety

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