University launches revamped Campus Advisories Web site

Campus Advisories – the principal method the Office of Public Safety and Emergency Management uses to communicate with students – has undergone a renovation to better assist students in emergency and non-emergency situations.

After six years of continuous development and improvement, changes to the Web site have consolidated important information, links, and contacts into one page which links visitors to other public safety and emergency information.

“We think we have made significant progress in past years for the GW population to access this information,” said John Petrie, assistant vice president for public safety and emergency management.

Petrie said the purpose of Campus Advisories is to constantly update relevant information on issues that may interrupt campus or the surrounding area, including class cancellations or delays, transportation difficulties, severe weather warnings and schedule changes.

The new site is designed to enhance its preparedness functions. Tabs across the site’s homepage include an incident manual, emergency contacts list and guidance on contingency planning as well as information specific to students, faculty, staff and parents. It also includes relevant links to Student Health Services and the Information Systems and Services Help Desk, information on transportation like Metro and Zipcar and community resources.

Instead of utilizing the GW Infomail system, campus advisories sends out a separate e-mail with a distinct header for vital updates. Petrie said due to the overabundance of Infomails the University sends, he thinks their effect becomes weakened and students tend to ignore them.

“That’s why we send our own e-mail with a different header and subject lines to alert the importance and distinction from Infomail,” Petrie said.

Petrie said all communication his office sends is intended to lead to the new site, but Campus Advisory e-mails are sent out very infrequently.

“We only send these e-mails for big situations,” he said.

Instead of sending out e-mail regularly each time an update is added, Petrie expects students and faculty to continually check the Web site.

Some information from the University Police Department is used on the Campus Advisories site, but only for cases that will affect a large portion of the GW population. Crime Alerts will remain a separate form of communication controlled and administered by UPD alone.

UPD Chief Dolores Stafford explained the difference between Crime Alerts and the Campus Advisory system.

“The federal law (The Clery Act) requires a timely notice when there is an on-going threat to the community,” Stafford said. “The blast e-mails and posters that we hang in the lobbies of the buildings are our means of complying with that law.”

Crime alerts are sent out under a separate heading to distinguish themselves from Campus Advisories and Infomails. Stafford said Crime Alerts are an effective way to inform the community of noteworthy crimes.

“I hear students and employees saying that they read them all the time and they thank us for the information,” Stafford said.

With the new campus advisory and news site consolidating information in one place, Petrie expects it will make it easier for students to find out about and respond to incidents.

He recalled cases where information was in different places and people did not know how to access it. He said members of the GW community were confused last January when the University cancelled morning classes due to an ice storm.

Petrie said, “Many students did not know how to access our site that would have told them that classes were cancelled, and since the blast e-mails usually take a few hours to be received by everyone on campus, many students were unprepared for the situation.”

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