Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management

Editor-in-Chief: Renda-Tanali, Irmak

Managing Editor: McGee, Sibel

IMPACT FACTOR 2018: 0.757

CiteScore 2018: 1.19

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.442
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.613

See all formats and pricing
More options …

Rethinking Crisis Communications on Campus: An Evaluation of Faculty and Staff Perceptions about Emergency Notification Systems

H. Jaymi Elsass / Joseph M. McKenna / Jaclyn Schildkraut
  • State University of New York at Oswego, 458 Mahar Hall, Oswego, NY 13126, United States of America
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2016-11-08 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jhsem-2016-0047


The use of emergency notification systems on college and university campuses nationwide have been a focus since the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech. In the aftermath, many of these institutions sought to install new emergency notification systems, or overhaul existing systems, to alert students in the event a similar incident took place on their campus. Researchers also began to focus on these systems by exploring their implementation and effectiveness; despite such advances in the literature, however, a noticeable gap persists. Specifically, much of the research focuses on the technology rather than the users themselves. Conducted at a large southwestern university, the present study sought to narrow this void by examining the perceptions and employment of the system by a key group of users – faculty and staff members – who often are considered the first line of defense in emergencies on campus. The findings not only highlight the continued need for multimodal notification systems, but also better education and training with relation to their use to increase user engagement and improve overall operations. Limitations of the study, directions for future research, and related policy implications for universities also are discussed.

Keywords: colleges and universities; emergency alerts; emergency notification systems; multimodal systems; Virginia Tech


  • Ada, S., H. R. Rao and R. Sharman (2010) Online social networking site (SNS) use at the campus emergencies. Paper presented at the 31st International Conference on Information Systems, St. Louis, MO. Retrieved from http://aisel.aisnet.org/icis2010_submissions/203/.

  • Bambenek, J. and A. Klus (2008) “Do Emergency Text Messaging Systems Put Students in More Danger?,” Educause Quarterly, 31(3):12–16.Google Scholar

  • Carnevale, D. (2006) “E-mail is for old people,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 53(7):A27.Google Scholar

  • Chang, R. (2015, October 22). Report: Sacramento City College warning system caused delay during deadly shooting. The Sacramento Bee. Retrieved from http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/crime/article41127426.html.

  • Department of Homeland Security. (n.d.). Homeland Security Advisory System. Retrieved from https://www.dhs.gov/homeland-security-advisory-system.

  • Foster, A. (2007) “After Va. Tech, Campuses Rush to Add Alert Systems,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 54(6):1.Google Scholar

  • Gow, G. A., T. McGee, D. Townsend, P. Anderson and S. Varnhagen (2009) “Communication Technology, Emergency Alerts, and Campus Safety,” Technology and Society Magazine, IEEE, 28(2):34–41.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Gulum, M. S. and S. L. Murray (2009) “Evaluation of the Effectiveness of a Mass Emergency Notification System,” Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting, 53(18):1466–1470.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Halligan, T. (2009) “Safety Systems: Technologies, Programs Help Colleges React in Emergencies,” Community College Journal, 79(6):16–18.Google Scholar

  • Hamblen, M. (2008) “Va. Tech Exposes Need to Expand Notification Plans; a Year Later, Colleges are Seeking New Ways to Send Emergency Text, E-Mail, and Phone Alerts,” ComputerWorld, 42:20.Google Scholar

  • Johnson, T. (2012) “Effect of a Marketing Program on Freshman Student Registration for an Emergency Notification System,” Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, 9(1):1–15.Web of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Kepner, R. (2010) Efficiency of the Emergency Alert System. (Doctoral Dissertation). Pullman, Washington: Washington State University.Google Scholar

  • Kullgren, I.K. (2015, October 3). College shooting: Alert systems failed, faculty members say. The Oregonian. Retrieved from http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2015/10/college_shooting_alert_systems.html.

  • Latimer, D. (2008) “Text Messaging as Emergency Communication Superstar? Nt so gr8,” Educause Review, 43(3):84–85.Google Scholar

  • Lee, D., J.Y. Chung and H. Kim (2013) “Text Me When It Becomes Dangerous: Exploring the Determinants of College Students’ Adoption of Mobile-Based Text Alerts Short Message Service,” Computers in Human Behavior, 29(3):563–569.CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Mark, R. (2008) “School Alert Systems Proliferate: Shootings Spur Growth,” But Students are Slow to Sign Up. eWeek, 25(13):17.Google Scholar

  • Mastrodicasa, J. (2008) “Technology Use in Campus Crisis,” New Directions for Student Services, 124:37–53.Google Scholar

  • McLaren, G. (2015, October 22). Report Finds Campus Alert Following Sac City College Shooting Was ‘Inexcusably Delayed.’ Fox 40. Retrieved from http://fox40.com/2015/10/22/report-finds-campus-alert-following-sac-city-college-shooting-was-inexcusably-delayed/.

  • Salaway, G., J. B. Caruso and M. Nelson (2007). The ECAR Study Of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology. Boulder, Colorado: Educause.Google Scholar

  • Schildkraut, J., J. M. McKenna and H. J. Elsass (2015) “Understanding Crisis Communications: Examining Students’ Perceptions About Campus Notification Systems,” Security Journal. doi: 10.1057/sj.2015.9.Web of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Schneider, T. (2010). Mass notification for higher education. National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED508002.pdf.

  • Seo, D.C., M. R. Torabi, J. Sa and E. H. Blair (2012) “Campus Violence Preparedness of US College Campuses,” Security Journal, 25(3):199–211.Web of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Stephens, K. K., A. K. Barrett and M. J. Mahometa (2013) “Organizational Communication in Emergencies: Using Multiple Channels and Sources to Combat Noise and Capture Attention,” Human Communication Research, 39(2):230–251.Web of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Stephens, K.K., J. Ford, A.K. Barrett and M. J. Mahometa (2014). Alert networks of ICT and sources in campus emergencies. Paper presented at the 11th International ISCRAM Conference, University Park, PA. Retrieved from http://iscram2014.ist.psu.edu/sites/default/files/misc/proceedings/p30.pdf.

  • Virginia Tech Review Panel (2007). Mass shootings at Virginia Tech April 16, 2007: Report of the review panel. Arlington, VA: Governor’s Office of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.governor.virginia.gov/TempContent/techpanelreport.cfm.

  • Wu, P.F., Y. Qu and J. J. Preece (2008) “Why an Emergency Alert System isn’t Adopted: The Impact of Socio-Technical Context,” British Computer Society, 2:101–104.Google Scholar

  • Young, J.R. (2008) “For Emergency Alerts, Some Colleges Try Sirens,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 54(31):22.Google Scholar

About the article

H. Jaymi Elsass

H. Jaymi Elsass is Lecturer in the School of Criminal Justice at Texas State University. Her primary research interests include episodic violent crime, moral panics, fear of crime, and juvenile delinquency. She is the co-author of Mass Shootings: Media, Myths, and Realities and has published in American Journal of Criminal Justice, Crime, Law and Social Change, Security Journal, and Criminology, Criminal Justice, Law & Society, as well as several edited volumes.

Joseph M. McKenna

Joseph M. McKenna is the Associate Director of Research and Evaluation at the Texas School Safety Center at Texas State University. He conducts research in the areas of violence, school safety and emergency management, school crime/disorder, school climate, policing, and public policy. His research has been published in Criminal Justice Policy Review, Criminal Justice Ethics, Journal of Qualitative Criminal Justice & Criminology, International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, and Security Journal, among other practitioner and academic outlets.

Jaclyn Schildkraut

Jaclyn Schildkraut is an Assistant Professor of Public Justice at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Oswego. Her research interests include mass/school shootings, homicide trends, mediatization effects, moral panics, and crime theories. She is the co-author of Mass Shootings: Media, Myths, and Realities and has published in Homicide Studies, American Journal of Criminal Justice, Journal of Qualitative Criminal Justice & Criminology, Fast Capitalism, Criminal Justice Studies, Crime, Law and Social Change, and Criminology, Criminal Justice, Law & Society, as well as several edited volumes.

Published Online: 2016-11-08

Published in Print: 2016-09-01

Citation Information: Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Volume 13, Issue 3, Pages 329–349, ISSN (Online) 1547-7355, ISSN (Print) 2194-6361, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jhsem-2016-0047.

Export Citation

©2016 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston.Get Permission

Citing Articles

Here you can find all Crossref-listed publications in which this article is cited. If you would like to receive automatic email messages as soon as this article is cited in other publications, simply activate the “Citation Alert” on the top of this page.

James D. Pleuss, Jessica L. Heier Stamm, and Jason D. Ellis
Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, 2018, Volume 15, Number 3
Jaclyn Schildkraut, Collin M. Carr, and Victoria Terranova
Journal of School Violence, 2018, Page 1
Jaclyn Schildkraut, Kevin Jennings, Collin M. Carr, and Victoria Terranova
Security Journal, 2017

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in