Since my company works directly with several very large university systems providing crisis communication and emergency notification technology, this event has obviously impacted our clients and us quite directly. I commented to some of our staff that this event will likely be a watershed event in our work and the crisis communication industry for the way it is has highlighted the need for exceptionally fast and multi-mode notifications. As one example, we just completed and are distributing as I write this to some of our clients instructions about how Facebook can and should be used as one aspect of a complete emergency notification solution.
Tomorrow morning I will participate on a web conference call with a large group of university communication leaders on the strategies and technologies needed to respond to this kind of event.
One thing is clear–it takes more than the right technologies. The solution has to include what we talk about frequently: the Four Ps: Policy, Plan, People and Platform. It is easy in hindsight to question the decision of the university leaders not to order the complete lockdown of the university after the initial incident. It is not so easy in real life to make those kinds of decisions. It is one thing to have the technology that will enable virtually instant multi-mode communication with an entire university community. It is quite another to have the plans, policies and people in place to make the right decisions and to be able to act on them in concert and efficiently. The challenge is huge and those who would too easily criticize those who were in that position probably have never been in a similar situation.