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The effective use of communication tools during a long-term campus emergency


This article examines the experience of the campus community at Kean University in Union, NJ before, during, and after the landfall of Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. Like any university during an emergency situation, the campus utilized traditional and social media outlets and its campus alert system to convey information about the status of campus, classes, and other related issues. The makeup and structure of Kean and of Sandy’s effects on the region presented issues related to these communication efforts as students, faculty, and staff faced their own personal difficulties that potentially hindered their ability to receive this information. The article presents results from a campus-wide survey that generally shows satisfaction with the effort made by campus leadership when communicating, but does outline the limitations of relying on social media outlets (such as Twitter and Facebook), campus alert systems, and campus Web pages for transmitting this information during a time when access to these sources was limited to a large amount of the campus population. As such, those that were not satisfied felt that the information was delivered inefficiently despite the use of communication tools designed to promote efficient delivery of information. These unsatisfied respondents felt the steps taken by university leadership did not grasp the magnitude of effects beyond campus boundaries and added stress during an already stressful period. Additionally, the university’s use of satellite campuses led to further issues as information about particular locations was not always accurately conveyed. Overall, the results of the survey and the experience of the respondents demonstrate the importance of flexibility and clarity in planning and communication efforts when long-term catastrophes occur in order to promote a culture of preparedness on campus.

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Correspondence to Sean Hildebrand.

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Hildebrand, S. The effective use of communication tools during a long-term campus emergency. Nat Hazards 88, 21–38 (2017).

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  • Campus alert system
  • College and university preparedness
  • Response
  • Recovery
  • Mitigation
  • Social media