Preparing for emergency communications
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Preparing for Emergency Communications. Technical tools to facilitate communication during a crisis. Today’s Presentation. About UVic Communication principles Technology principles. Today’s Presentation. Implementations ‘Global menu’ ‘Lite’ emergency page Emergency Notification System

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Preparing for Emergency Communications

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Preparing for Emergency Communications

Technical tools to facilitate communication during a crisis


Today’s Presentation

  • About UVic

  • Communication principles

  • Technology principles


Today’s Presentation

  • Implementations

    • ‘Global menu’

    • ‘Lite’ emergency page

    • Emergency Notification System

    • Website publishing resiliency


Today’s Presentation

  • Acknowledgements:

    • Larry Hinkler

      AVP University Relations, Virginia Tech

    • Chris Hawker

      Director, Centre for Risk, Resilience & Renewal, University of Canterbury (NZ)


About University of Victoria

  • It’s lotus land


About University of Victoria


About University of Victoria

  • Hazards everywhere!


About University of Victoria

  • Hazards everywhere!


About University of Victoria

  • Hazards everywhere!


About University of Victoria

  • Hazards everywhere!


About University of Victoria

  • Hazards everywhere!


Common hazards


Common hazards


Common hazards


Common hazards


Common hazards


UVic Emergency Planning Office

  • Develop procedures & plans

    • Emergency binder with contacts, instructions

  • Coordination of learning opportunities


UVic Emergency Planning Office

  • ‘Emergency Communications Committee’

    • Communications-specific discussion & guidance

    • Participation in communications projects (e.g., major website redesigns)


Communication principles driving technical solutions


Communication principles driving technical solutions

  • Openness, transparency

  • In a crisis, communicate…

    • as much as possible

    • as quickly as possible

    • what people should do to stay safe

    • to inform audiences who really care


Technology principles driving implementation details


Technology principles driving implementation details

  • Simplicity

  • Resiliency

  • Redundancy


Emergency Communications at UVic


Emergency Communications at UVic

  • Website ‘Global menu’

  • ‘Lite’ emergency homepage

  • Emergency Notification System

  • Web publishing redundancy


UVic.ca Website Redesign (2012)


UVic.ca Website Redesign (2012)

  • Communications objective:

    • Provide consistent, deep links throughout UVic web space

    • Alert audience to situations on campus (on all pages)

  • Technical solution:

    • Global “mega menu”


UVic.ca Website Redesign (2012)

  • Global “mega menu”


UVic.ca global menu


UVic.ca Website Redesign (2012)

  • Global “mega menu”

    • Universal menu with deep links

    • Top of the page

    • Rolled up by default

    • Space for notifications


UVic.ca Website Redesign (2012)

  • Global “mega menu”

    • PHP include in template

    • Weather

      • Snow in #YYJ

    • Advisory

      • Transit strike, paving

    • Emergency

      • Popped open displaying full message


UVic.ca global menu


UVic.ca global menu


UVic.ca global menu


UVic.ca Website Redesign (2012)


UVic.ca Website Redesign (2012)

  • Communications objective:

    • Ensure that emergency messaging is highly available on the homepage

  • Technical solution:

    • Emergency, blog-style homepage


UVic.ca emergency homepage


UVic.ca emergency homepage

  • Your emergency will go viral.

    • Expect a month’s worth of traffic in a day

    • Social Media – aka, rubber necking goes global…

    • … while the people who really care can’t connect


UVic.ca emergency homepage

  • Replace ‘promo’ homepage

    • Blog style – updated often

    • Pre-populated in CMS with placeholder text


UVic.ca emergency homepage

  • Replace ‘promo’ homepage

    • Little to no ‘processing’ (esp. back-end)

    • Few/no images

    • Lite JS library


UVic.ca emergency homepage


Emergency Notification System


Emergency Notification System

  • Communications objectives:

    • Alert campus community to hazardous situation

    • Direct people how to act

  • Technical solution:

    • Emergency Notification System (ENS)


ENS Messages

  • What is an extraordinarily simple communication medium that conveys information very clearly, concisely and completely?

  • All at once it says…

    • there is a fire

    • drop what you’re doing

    • get out of the building


ENS Messages

  • ENS messages are slightly more informative than the red bells hanging on the wall


ENS Messages

  • Alert the campus

    • “There is a person with a gun.”

    • “There is a gas leak.”

    • “The XYZ building is on fire.”


ENS Messages

  • Direct people how to stay safe

    • “Leave campus.”

    • “Barricade in place.”

    • “Drop! Cover! Hold on!”


ENS Messages

  • Inform people where to get more info

    • “See http://uvic.ca/emergency for more about...”


ENS Messages

  • Wrap it up.

    • “It is safe to return.”


ENS Technology

  • Communication channels

    • Bulk email to Exchange mailboxes

    • Targeted email to ‘preferred’

    • SMS message to ‘mobile’ phone


ENS Technology

  • Communication channels

    • VOIP phone screen

    • VOIP phone speaker broadcast


ENS Technology

  • Communication channels

    • Twitter post

    • Publish to web

      • Consumable XHTML chunk

      • Video display screens


ENS Technology

  • Resiliency

    • build & deploy as atomic web application

      • Groovy/grails (not APEX)

      • H2 database

    • deploy to

      • redundant servers…

      • in redundant data centres


ENS Technology

  • Interface simplicity

    • used under extreme stress

    • concise wording

    • clear, action-oriented buttons

      • “Send alerts now”


ENS Technology

  • Interface simplicity

    • pre-populated with ‘template’ messages

    • “training” vs. “emergency” modes


ENS Technology

  • Interface simplicity

    • “Cherry blossom blizzard”


ENS Technology

  • It is not…

    • a bulk emailer

    • a way to manage contacts

    • an alternative to the telephone

    • for news


ENS Technology

  • It is…

    • to help people stay safe

      • “There is a gas leak. Evacuate and stay away from XYZ building.”

      • “There was a gas leak.” (news)

      • “There was a gas leak. You may still be able to smell gas, but the problem has been solved and it is safe. You can return to the XYZ building.”


ENS Technology

  • It is…

    • slightly more informative than the red bell on the wall

    • [ difficult to test without actually ringing the bell ]


BCP for Communications

  • Communications objective:

    • In a crisis when our infrastructure is compromised, we must be able to continue to update the web.

  • Technical solution:

    • Off-site web hosting


A view into emergency communications planning discussions


A view into emergency communications planning discussions

  • “What if the web server dies?”

  • “No problem, we have four of them.”

  • “What if the data centre dies?”

  • “No problem, we have two of them.”


A view into emergency communications planning discussions

  • “What if both data centres die?”

  • “We have a BCP Server at TRU (Kamloops).”

  • Single VM for www at TRU

    • Re-point DNS (scripted)

    • index.php is ‘emergency’ blog style

    • 404 page is index.php

    • However…


A view into emergency communications planning discussions

  • “If our data centres are down, so is our WCMS. How do we update the content to TRU?”

  • “Hmm.”

  • “Does the Director of Communications know how to code HTML and command-line sftp?”

  • Enter Judy Steward from Western


Off-site CMS hosting

  • Both UVic and Western use Cascade CMS

    • Web-based interface

    • “Push” CMS

      • publishes via SFTP to web servers


Off-site CMS hosting

  • Reciprocal emergency site CMS hosting

    • Delegate admin & config

    • Common end-user interface & workflow

    • In-application authentication


A view into emergency communications planning discussions


A view into emergency communications planning discussions

  • “If our data centres are down, our internet connection probably is too. How will we connect to Western’s Cascade to update content?”

  • “Hmm.”

  • “We could ask Western to update the site for us.”

  • Enter Judy Steward from Western


Off-site CMS hosting

  • Phone call (land line, cell, satellite?) with request to update content

  • Judy can login to Western’s CMS and publish to UVic’s emerg site at TRU


Start planning today


Start planning today

  • All I really need to know, I learned…

    … working at the help desk

  • Logistics trump technology


Start planning today

  • What room will be you Emergency Command Centre?

    • Are its phone/network ports active now?

    • Who has keys?

    • Is it on the top floor? basement?


Start planning today

  • What phone number should media/parents/first responders call?

    • What phone number in on your homepage?

    • Who answers that number?


Start planning today

  • Practical logistical considerations for technology

    • Who has access rights to emerg systems?

    • Have they been trained?

    • When was the last time they exercised?

    • Where’s the how-to manual?


Start planning today

  • Have difficult questions today – not during the event.

    • What are the plausible hazards?

    • What message and tone do we want to use to respond to them?

    • What’s our template message for each hazard?


Start planning today

  • Have difficult questions today – not during the event.

    • Under which scenarios ‘Do we?’ or ‘Don’t we?’ declare an ‘emergency’?

    • When does a general ‘advisory’ become an ‘emergency’?

      • Threat to life & limb


Start planning today

  • Ring the bells occasionally (but not too often)

    • Emergency Preparedness Week (May 4 to 10, 2014)

    • BC Shakeout

  • [How do you get your students to pay attention?]


Conclusions

  • In a crisis, communicate…

    • as much as possible

    • as quickly as possible

    • what people should do to stay safe

    • to inform audiences who really care


Conclusions

  • To prepare to communicate in a crisis, build…

    • simple interfaces to

    • resilient systems that are deployed to

    • redundant locations


Questions?

  • David Shaykewich, UVic

    • [email protected]

  • Judy Steward, Western

    • [email protected]


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