On January 22, 2013, gunshots were heard on the North Harris campus of Lone Star College System. It was later learned that an altercation between to individuals (one of whom may have been a student) had escalated to gun violence. The shooters were injured along with an innocent bystander.
Incidents such as this immediately bring to mind topics such as crime, gun control, workplace violence, weapons on campus, mental health issues, or law enforcement response – topics which are covered extensively in the media and will not be discussed here.
What we noticed was the alert system of Lone Star College System.
During the lockdown on January 22, visitors to the homepage of Lone Star College System saw this:
Important information about the current situation was included at the top of the page surrounded by a red outline. More general emergency information was included lower on the page with links to Lone Star’s Office of Emergency Management and the LSCS Emergency Preparedness Guide. Specific information topics included Personal Preparedness Checklist, Tips for People with Special Needs or Disabilities, Weather Emergencies, Terrorism, Building Explosion, Bomb Threats, Shelter in Place, Epidemic, Preventing Crime, Contact Information, and Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs). A link to the standard “non-lockdown” homepage of Lone Star College System was also included.
Based on the design of the page, it appears that Lone Star College System has created an alert template to be used in an emergency situation. With this arrangement, college representatives can simply add relevant information and activate the page, thereby increasing the speed with which they can provide information to students, faculty, staff, and visitors. Although we did not test it, the design of this page suggests that it would be easily viewed on a mobile device or a tablet.
We do not know what other communication methods were used by Lone Star College System, if any, and used alone, this website replacement may not be a comprehensive notification strategy.
However, when used in conjunction with other means of notification such as phone, text, and email, this alert webpage is a fast and efficient was to communicate information to students, faculty, staff, visitors, and the general public.
On April 9, 2013, the CyFair campus of Lone Star College System was placed on lockdown because of an individual who stabbed fourteen people. During the incident, the main webpage of Lone Star College System was again replaced with an “alert” page. Although the design of the page had changed slightly from January to April, the important information was present and highly visible.