May 9, 2017

Emergency alerts prompt need-to-know phrases


Cleveland State University sent out several campus safety alerts to students Sunday, April 16 due to a murder suspect hunt taking place near downtown.
Approximately five alerts were sent out to students, faculty and staff in the forms of text messages, phone calls and emails.
The university even posted the alert on its social media accounts.
The alert read, “CSU EMERGENCY ALERT SHELTER IN PLACE until further notice. Police are searching for a murder suspect. More info to follow.”
According to Cleveland State Police Chief Gary Lewis, alerts that are sent out fall into three categories; a campus safety alert, a Viking update and a CLEstate update.
The campus safety alert is a timely, high-priority warning about a criminal incident on or near campus. A Viking update is new information pertaining to a previously issued safety alert and a CLEstate update is a message regarding class or event cancellations or delays due to weather conditions, campus safety and more, Lewis said.
Lewis said issuing a public safety notice is more about them reviewing a situation and the proximity to campus rather than a request or suggestion to alert the campus community.
“Information about criminal incidents is reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the Cleveland State University Police Department and other key leaders across campus,” Lewis explained.
When reviewing a possible campus safety alert and what level to categorize it, they look at five things: Did a crime occur? Did it occur on campus or on other Clery Reportable property? Clery reportable property is property like college campuses or property that is directly accessible through a college campus where the police are required to report certain crimes like rape, murder and aggravated assault. They also ask if the crime is a violet crime against a person or a particularly threatening crime against property? Is there a serious continuous threat to the campus community? Finally, the chief of police and Cleveland State leaders review all of the available facts of the case and make the final decision.
When writing the alert, the police chief and Cleveland State leaders select the best, most effective language that will get the message to students in a clear and concise manner.
The message from April 16 used the phrase “shelter in place,” which is not a commonly used phrase, but is used by the federal government and the Red Cross when telling people to stay where they are until a particular situation has passed, according to Will Dube, Cleveland State’s director of Communications and Media Relations.
“[Cleveland State] works to use common, industry-approved terms in its emergency messages to insure our verbiage matches what may be being sent by other organizations or government entities,” Dube said.



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