A Safe Return
How tech-led innovation can support campus efforts for a secure return this fall
- By Tracy Reinhold
- June 01, 2021
As the nation’s colleges and universities prepare for Fall 2021,
healthcare experts off er cautious optimism for better days
ahead amid the pandemic. Yet, COVID-19-related challenges
remain, and may for some time.
During a recent interview, National Institute of Allergy and
Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said he does
not expect a “degree of normality that will approximate the kind of
normality we are used to,” until 2022.
that gap between the start of the 2021 school year and the onset of
this greater degree of normality represents continued risk to students,
faculty, staff and campus visitors that tech-led innovation can help
bridge, especially as new coronavirus variants proliferate in the
Critical Event Management Offers a Better Way Forward
As higher education navigates the prolonged impact of COVID-19,
schools continue to face a series of unprecedented challenges: how to
get people back on campus safely, how to quickly inform students,
faculty, and staff of potential coronavirus risks; how to comply with
Clery Act guidelines requiring the notification the campus community
when there an immediate threat to health and safety of students
and employees exists; and how to cope with lost revenue from closures
and the lack of sporting and other large events on campus.
What can colleges and universities do to reopen while digitally
transforming the process to monitor potential exposures, manage the
response and effectively communicate across all key stakeholder, all
while protecting student, faculty and staff privacy?
Today, critical event management (CEM) technology – so wareas-
as-service (SaaS) that helps colleges, universities and other organizations
mitigate natural, manmade and digital crises – off ers higher
education leaders an effective solution for addressing these challenges
amid the remaining phases of the pandemic, and in anticipation of
other threats like violence and crimes on campus, severe weather, IT
outages, cyber-attacks and other incidents.
CEM allows schools to automate and manage the full lifecycle of a
crisis: assess risks and determine which are relevant to your assets and
people; locate all assets and people that are impacted or at risk of being
impacted, including remote, work-from-home, mobile and traveling
employees, as well as customers and responders, nearby or traveling to
areas of risk; act to automate standard operating procedures to launch
and manage incident response; and analyze performance to identify
bottlenecks and improve response for subsequent events.
At the onset of the pandemic, CEM helped universities conduct
contact tracing by leveraging location-based tracing data that an
organization typically already collects, from badge swipes and meeting
calendars to GPS signals and Wi-Fi location monitoring, to identify
anyone who might have encountered someone infected with
COVID-19, while safeguarding user privacy.
Schools used the technology to:
Alert people. A possible encounter with someone who had tested
positive for COVID-19
Conduct daily wellness checks. On campus to ensure students
and employees remain healthy and not a risk to others
Ascertain when someone on campus had tested positive. Help
facilitate medical attention and provide campus policy information.
As part of one streamlined platform, CEM also includes valuable
crisis and event management capabilities to optimize a college or university’s
critical event response by orchestrating all crisis activities,
teams, resources and communications in one application. With all
stakeholders – from responders in the field to campus leadership –
working from a common operating picture, allows schools to focus
on mission-critical activities to provide a status update, and complements
CEM’s other capabilities.
With coronavirus outbreaks still possible for months or years to
come, these capabilities can help schools respond quickly to sudden
spikes on campus and contain the spread.
CEM’s digital wayfinding capabilities also benefit schools during
the reopening process. Similar to traditional outdoor navigation systems,
digital wayfinding provides voice prompts, off -route notifications,
and visual landmark references. Schools can use the solution to
provide virtual guided tours, showcasing the key highlights of the
school history or community life on campus, as well as creating a
smooth transition for incoming freshman and parents to navigate
through a large unfamiliar campus environment.
Additional features may include parking planners, as well as “find
my car” and “meet me” features, all designed to help connect students,
visitors, faculty and staff . These remain applicable to the
Together, these and other CEM capabilities support a school’s
holistic approach to providing a safe path to returning to campus and
managing any crisis or event on campus.
The Return to Campus also means the Return of Other Risks Too
The return to campus this Fall also represents a return to confronting
severe weather, IT outages, cyber-attacks, crime or violence on campus.
Critical events can happen anywhere, and they need rapid management,
especially during a pandemic, which adds even more complexity
to the response.
According to a Bloomberg report, cyber-attacks against schools
and other institutions continue to rise:.
“The United States was hit by a record volume of ransomware attacks
in 2019 and attackers [showed] little sign of relenting in 2020, when
users spent more time on less secure networks while working from
home. In 2019, at least 966 government agencies, schools and healthcare
providers were attacked at a cost of more than $7.5 billion. Among
those were almost 90 universities and school districts.”
This article originally appeared in the May / June 2021 issue of Campus Security Today.