Emergency Notifications and Timely Warnings
Under the Clery Act, the university issues emergency notifications to students and employees when certain threatening events take place within CSU’s Clery geography.
When is an emergency notification necessary?
Under the Clery Act, the institution is required to notify the campus community as soon as there is reasonable confirmation of a significant emergency or dangerous situation occurring on the campus that involves an immediate threat to the health or safety of students or employees. The university is not required to alert the campus community if a threat to campus is immediately contained. An immediate threat includes an imminent or impending threat, such as an active assailant, approaching tornado, or fire currently raging in one of our buildings. To report an emergency that presents such a threat, call 911 immediately and identify your location to the dispatcher.
How does CSU determine if an emergency notification should be issued due to a significant emergency or dangerous situation involving an immediate threat to health and safety?
CSU police immediately gather information upon responding to a report of an emergency or dangerous situation, and evaluate the situation as quickly as possible for any immediate risk to the campus community, such as an active shooter, hazardous material released, fire, or other threat.
Information can be limited in the first moments of a police response, but officers will work to quickly gather initial information from as many people as possible, visually assess the situation, and look for evidence of a crime. If the information available indicates that there is an immediate risk to health and safety of campus, even if a report has not been verified as credible, the responding CSUPD officer or officers will alert their supervisors to request a review for an emergency notification. Supervisors will immediately contact the chief of police or designee with known information for immediate consideration. The chief or designee will initiate the process of sending an emergency alert.
When initiating the process for considering an emergency alert, the chief or designee will consider the overall safety of the campus community and if an immediate threat is reported to exist. The chief or designee also will provide information appropriate to include in the alert about the incident to the public information officer or the information officer’s backup to craft the alert. The institution will, without delay, and taking into account the safety of the community, determine the content of the notification and initiate the notification system, unless issuing a notification will, in the professional judgment of responsible authorities, compromise efforts to assist a victim or to contain, respond to or otherwise mitigate the emergency. Information that may harm the victim or compromise emergency response will not be included in an alert. The information officer will verbally read or text the alert copy to the chief or designee for an immediate review for accuracy, and then send out the alert.
When an emergency or dangerous situation is reported to the CSU Police Department, the chief of police or designee will consider the facts known at that time to assess the nature of the emergency, its severity, and the areas or segments of the university community that are endangered.
- When it is confirmed by the university that a significant emergency or dangerous situation involving an immediate threat to the health or safety of students or employees is occurring on or nearby campus (or other locations as required by the Clery Act), the university will issue an emergency notification.
- The emergency notification is issued immediately upon confirmation that a dangerous situation or emergency exists or is threatened.
- During extreme circumstances, such as an active assailant, CSUPD may send an emergency alert without Public Safety Team input.
- The university weighs possible risk of compromising law enforcement efforts or endangering a victim of a crime before sending an emergency alert.
- If a threat has been immediately contained by law enforcement, or if the incident appeared to be targeted toward specific individuals known to the assailant and there is no threat to other individuals, no warning is issued.
Some examples of situations in which an emergency notification would also be considered include:
- Approaching tornado or other extreme weather conditions
- Gas leak or chemical spill on or near campus
- Terrorist incident on or near campus
- Armed intruder, active assailant or active shooter on or near campus
- Bomb threat on campus
- Explosion or large fire on campus
Determining Segments of the Campus Community to Receive an Emergency Notification
Campus and local first responders provide information to be included in an emergency notification and will help determine what segments of the campus community should receive the notification.
- Generally, all university employees and students will receive alerts, including email messages, and a text message to subscribers. All employees and students are strongly urged to sign up for text alerts; no segment of the university population is automatically enrolled. Students may enroll and verify their information through RamWeb and employees may enroll and verify their information through the Human Resources self-service portal. These alerts are sent any time an emergency is reported that meets the criteria for an emergency alert, including in the middle of the night.
- CSUPD officers may target specific areas or buildings on campus with direct instructions in addition to mass notification or may select only specific buildings in which to share an emergency alert. Timely warnings are shared with the entire campus community.
- The university, through the CSUPD and Public Safety Team, may also post messages about the dangerous condition on the Safety website and the shared CSUPD and Public Safety Team social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter) to ensure the rest of the campus community is aware of the situation and the steps that should be taken to maintain personal and campus safety. If assistance is needed from additional law enforcement or emergency response agencies, they will be contacted by CSUPD to request assistance. Similarly, if local media is helpful or necessary to disseminate any alerts, such outlets will be contacted by CSUPD or university communications personnel.
- In some cases, the main university social media accounts also will share emergency information.
When is a timely warning necessary?
When a Clery category crime is reported to CSU police, the report is assessed for whether a serious or continuing threat is present. CSU is responsible for issuing a timely warning if a Clery Act crime has been reported and CSU determines there is a serious or continuing threat to the campus community. The Clery Act does not define “timely,” but the intent of the warning is to promptly provide information to people to help them prevent or protect themselves from similar crimes. Timely warnings are issued on a case-by-case basis to help reduce the risk of a campus community member becoming the victim of a similar crime. Warnings sometimes are issued before complete information is available and before police can determine if a report is credible.
How are timely warnings issued?
Once an initial report of a crime has been received that may fit the criteria for a timely warning, CSUPD and members of the Public Safety Team will determine if a timely warning should be issued. Determining if a timely warning will be sent depends on the information reported, the timing of the report (if the report is made after a threat has passed), and if continuing concern to the campus community is probable.
Timely warnings may be issued to the entire campus community through:
- The CSU emergency email system sends emails to all students and employees, and no one can opt out of receiving messages.
- Postings to the Safety website, safety.colostate.edu.
- The CSU emergency text alert system. Students and employees must sign up for text alerts. This system is generally reserved for emergency notifications. Students and employees are strongly encouraged to sign up for the university’s emergency text notification system and to periodically check to make sure that their mobile number in the system is correct. Students may enroll and verify their information through RamWeb and employees may enroll and verify their information through the Human Resources self-service portal. It only takes a few moments to sign up for alerts, and doing so may help save your life or the life of another.
- Fliers sent to specific offices or areas of campus where the threat is targeted and not immediate.
Warnings may also be posted on one or more of the university’s social media sites, or by sharing paper notices to specific audiences on campus that may be threatened.
Procedures Used to Issue an Emergency Notification or Timely Warning
As to both emergency notifications and timely warnings, as soon as the emergency has been confirmed, university communications staff and the CSUPD Public Information Officer will work with the Chief of Police to determine the content of a notification message and send it. When time allows, two members of the Public Safety Executive Team will approve the message.
Emergency notifications or timely warnings will be directed to the university community by using one or more of the following:
- The CSU emergency email system
- Emergency text alert system
- Students and employees must sign up for text alerts – no individuals are automatically enrolled
- All emergency text alerts from CSU start with “CSU alert:”
- Characters are limited, so alerts may be broken into more than one message and are denoted as “CSU alert 1,” “CSU alert 2,” etc.
- By posting to the CSU safety website
- CSUPD and Public Safety Team shared social media outlets
Depending upon the level of threat and context of the emergency, messages may also be shared via:
- Reverse 911 calls
- Cable television messages
- University homepage at www.colostate.edu
- Main university social media accounts
- University’s online newsletter SOURCE at colostate.edu
- Parent & Family online newsletter (https://parentsandfamily.colostate.edu/ ) and social media accounts (called Colorado State Parents & Families on Facebook)
- CSU status recorded line 970-491-7669
Emergency email and text notification systems will be tested periodically (usually three times per year after student census), using test messages.
To determine who receives an alert, CSUPD, the Office of General Counsel and the public information officer will consult about whether a risk is contained to a specific population or area of campus and the type of alert being issued. Timely warnings will be sent to the entire campus community. Emergency notifications may be segmented depending on the nature of emergency. The university can share an emergency notification via email with only students or only employees, or target certain geographical areas of the university with printed fliers or verbal instructions if a situation warrants. These notifications can be expanded to include other segments or the entire campus as the situation unfolds. The entire campus will be notified if a threat is not contained to one geographical location or one population. The university’s text and other electronic alert systems generally do not segment populations, but send to all campus members who are enrolled to receive them.
The decision to issue an emergency notification may be made by the CSU chief of police, an officer expressly authorized by the chief of police, or by the Public Safety Team. Because of the urgent nature of these notices, the university’s primary objective will be to confirm whether or not such emergency conditions exist as quickly as possible, and, taking into account the safety of the community, determine the content of the notification and initiate the notification system without delay.
Determining the Content of an Emergency Notification or Timely Warning
- The chief of police or designated officer, CSUPD public information officer and two members of Public Safety Team Executive Team (most commonly the President’s Chief of Staff and the General Counsel, or their designees if they are not available) will determine the content of the message. These individuals will rapidly discuss known facts that can be released without compromising a police investigation.
- When possible, messages will be quickly developed for each specific incident and include as much detail as can be released.
- In addition, the university has developed a wide range of template messages addressing several different emergency situations so that those creating the messages may select the template message most appropriate to the ongoing situation and modify it to address the specifics of the incident.
Those issuing the notification will use the following guidelines when determining the contents of the emergency message:
- Initial alerts warn all or part of the campus community of a danger and the actions they should take to safeguard their safety.
- Information pertaining to the reported incident will be screened to include the most information as possible, based on what occurred, where it occurred, and when it occurred.
- To achieve this, alerts will include descriptive phrase or word about the incident (such as robbery, assault, or hazardous materials spill), the location where an incident was reported to have occurred, the time of the incident or threat, and information that may assist with police response, such as a suspect description.
- Messages distributed in the early stage of a rapidly unfolding critical incident will generally be short, precise, and directive. Examples include: “CSU Alert: Assault reported outside of the south entrance to the Lory Student Center. Suspect is white female wearing a pink shirt, jeans. May be armed with a tire iron.”
- Subsequent messages may be sent to inform the campus community about additional details of the situation if new information becomes available. These messages are generally distributed once first responders have additional information about the dangerous situation. Examples include: “CSU Alert 2: Suspect last seen running south through Lory Student Center plaza. Call 911 if suspect seen. When available updates at safety.colostate.edu.”
- When possible, an all-clear notice is sent once the situation is nearly or completely resolved.
- The purpose of this message is to reassure the community that the university is working diligently to resolve the dangerous situation.
- It can also be used to provide additional information about the situation and where resources will be available.
- The notification goal is to ensure individuals are aware of the situation and that they know the steps to take to safeguard their personal and community safety.
- Some situations do not reach a clear resolution, such as the location and arrest of a suspect, so it is not possible to always issue an all-clear.
If the situation warrants, the university will establish a telephone call-in center staffed by university specialists to communicate with the campus community during an emergency.
In all emergency notifications and timely warnings, the university will follow procedures to assure that the names or identifying characteristics of crime victims are not publicly disclosed, including a review of the alert content by members of the Public Safety Team or the Chief of CSU Police Department.
Sharing Information with the Community Outside of Campus
- When all students receive an emergency alert, Student Affairs will share the content of that alert through its Parents and Family email lists or its newsletter.
- The university also will post the text of all emergency alerts that are shared with the majority of the campus community on its safety website at safety.colostate.edu.
- Emergency alerts shared with only a geographical or segmented portion of the campus population will generally not be shared online.
- The content of emergency alerts is generally also shared via the Public Safety Team and CSU Police Department joint social media accounts.
- When a timely warning is shared with the campus community, the university will post the content of the warning on its safety website.