715  Emergency Notification and Timely Warnings

Approved by President
Effective Date: June 5, 2017
Responsible Division: Business and Finance
Responsible Office:  University Police
Responsible Officer:  Assistant Vice President, University Police

I.  Purpose

A.  Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU or University) is committed to maintaining a safe and secure campus, and will disseminate relevant and pertinent information regarding reported criminal activities or incidents that pose a grave and immediate threat to people and/or property that could impact the safety of the campus community.

B.  An emergency notification (MTSU Alert) will be distributed when there is confirmation of a violent crime or a threatening event that immediately endangers the campus community. A timely warning (MTSU Advisory) will be issued when a crime is reported and determined to be an on-going or continuous threat to the campus.

C.  The information contained in an emergency notification or a timely warning is intended to allow members of the campus community to protect themselves and will contain all information that would promote safety and aid in the prevention of similar crimes. The information will include a brief statement of the incident or situation that triggered the alert, the time and location of the event, a description of any suspects, and information about anything individuals should do to avoid harm, such as avoiding a specified area or sheltering in place. No notices will contain the name(s) of victims involved in the incident. Information will be updated as needed and appropriate.

II.  MTSU Alerts (Emergency Notifications)

A.  An MTSU Alert is an emergency notification issued to alert affected persons of a significant emergency or dangerous situation occurring on campus involving an immediate or imminent threat to the health or safety of students, faculty, staff, or visitors. An alert is issued immediately once it is confirmed that a legitimate emergency or dangerous situation exists.

B.  MTSU Alerts will be issued for events or incidents on campus that meet the following criteria:

1.  The event or incident is ongoing in nature in that it continues to pose a real or likely threat;

2.  The event or incident may be mitigated by the quick release of information to the campus community; and,

3.  The release of information regarding the possible threat in a more immediate fashion may significantly reduce the chance of individuals or groups becoming victims.

C.  Examples of events or incidents that may result in the issuance of an MTSU Alert:

1.  Active Shooter;

2.  Armed Robbery (including attempts);

3.  Bomb Threat;

4.  Tornado Warning (as indicated by AccuWeather).

D. Notification Methods

1.  Notification for those previously described events or incidents that pose a grave and immediate threat to students, faculty, staff or visitors will be made using one or more of the following notification systems including, but not limited to:

a.  campus-wide email;

b.  siren towers;

c.  text messages that can be sent to a cell phone or PDA (individuals can sign up for this service via the MTSU’s Alert4U webpage);

d.  telephone calls;

e.  face-to-face communication;

f.  fire alarm notification systems;

g.  public address (“PA”) systems which are audible tones/alerts from outside siren towers or inside building fire alarm systems;

h.  websites/webpages;

i.  social media;

j.  audio announcements made via automated telephone calls (i.e., “Voice Alerts”),

k.  digital signage; or

l.  press release.

2.  Individuals can call MTSU’s recorded information telephone hotline at (615) 898-2000 for updates during an event or incident that resulted in an emergency notification. The University may also post updates during such an event or incident on the MTSU Alert Updates webpage.

3.  MTSU maintains six (6) tornado siren warning towers that are equipped with PA systems. These towers are strategically placed throughout the campus, and at the Tennessee Miller Coliseum, to facilitate communication through the PA system.

4.  The MTSU Police Department (University Police) conducts a monthly test of the tornado siren system.

5.  The email addresses of students, faculty, and staff are uploaded into the MTSU Critical Notification System daily, so that they will automatically receive emergency notification messages via email. Those who are interested in receiving emergency notification messages via text and/or voice alerts can sign up for those emergency notification message options by going to the MTSU Critical Notification System website and logging into their MTSU emergency notification account.

6.  In the event of an emergency on campus, anyone may access MTSU’s recorded information telephone hotline at (615) 898-2000, and the MTSU Alert Updates webpage for updates.

E.  Emergency Notification Process

1.  University Police typically receives information from individuals and various offices/departments on campus regarding suspicious activity and criminal incidents. Information may also come from other law enforcement and emergency service providers concerning situations reported to them that may warrant an emergency response.

2.  If University Police, other key University offices/departments, local authorities, or weather monitoring services (i.e., AccuWeather) confirm that there is an emergency or dangerous situation that poses an immediate threat to the health or safety of some or all members of the MTSU community, an MTSU Alert will be issued immediately and the President of the University will be notified.

3.  In making the decision about whether or not to activate emergency notification systems or to order an evacuation of the MTSU campus and/or property, the following factors are considered:

a.  Does the event or incident pose a significant or likely threat to the general campus community?

b.  Does the threat or danger from the event or incident still exist?

c.  Is there evidence that the threat has subsided or moved away and is, therefore, no longer posing a danger or a hazard?

d.  Has a significant amount of time transpired from the time of the incident to the present that would reasonably lead one to presume that the threat or the danger is no longer in the area?

e.  Will notification about the incident provide persons with knowledge that, if utilized, would likely reduce or reasonably eliminate the possibility that they would be victimized by the threat?

4.  Dependent upon the nature and scope of the event or incident, a determination will be made concerning whether the entire campus or specific portions of it will receive the MTSU Alert. If the potential exists that a very large segment of the campus will be impacted, the entire campus community will be notified. If only a portion of the campus is notified, there will be a continuing assessment of the situation and additional segments of the campus community may be notified if the situation warrants such action.

5.  MTSU will, without delay, and taking into account the safety of the campus community, determine the content of the Alert and initiate the notification system unless doing so will, in the judgment of the first responders (including, but not limited to: University Police, Murfreesboro Police Department, Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office, Murfreesboro Fire & Rescue Department and/or Rutherford County Emergency Medical Services (EMS)); compromise efforts to assist a victim; to conduct an adequate and competent criminal investigation; or, to contain, respond to, or otherwise mitigate the emergency.  In these instances, issuance may not occur or may be delayed.

6.  University Police and the Director of MTSU News and Media Relations or designee may collaborate to determine the content of the MTSU Alert message, and will use some or all of the notification systems to communicate the threat to all, or to specific segments of, the MTSU community.

7.  University Police is primarily responsible for issuing MTSU Alerts for law enforcement emergencies. The President of the University or designee, or the Office of News and Media Relations, acting on information provided by University Police, other law enforcement/emergency service providers, or other appropriate sources, may also issue MTSU Alerts for emergencies that are not necessarily law enforcement related (e.g., medical, inclement weather, other university closings).

8.  In the event of a critical incident, MTSU activates the Crisis Management Team (CMT) in order to bring key University administrators together to coordinate the decision- making process and resource allocation. This also allows for the University administration to participate in the Incident Command System (ICS) when appropriate. University Police Officers and Command Staff have been trained in ICS, a response method used nationally as an accepted standard for responding to and mitigating emergency situations and events. Typically, University Police, Murfreesboro Fire & Rescue Department, and Rutherford County EMS are the first responders to critical incidents which may pose a serious threat to the campus community. These agencies typically respond and work together to manage the incident. Depending on the nature of the incident, other MTSU departments and other local, state, or federal agencies could also be involved in the response and resolution of an incident.

9.  The decision-makers may also determine that a particular building or structure on campus, an area of the campus, the entire campus, or other University property should be immediately evacuated in order to create or maintain a safer situation for persons inhabiting those areas. In these instances, the aforementioned authorities may require evacuated persons to temporarily refrain from remaining in or entering specified areas of campus or University property for safety purposes. In those cases, University students, employees, and visitors may be informed as to how to leave campus or University property. They may also be informed as to where they should assemble or disperse.

10.  In the event of an evacuation, instructions will be provided utilizing the MTSU Critical Notification System. University Police will coordinate with Murfreesboro Police Department, if available, for traffic control and crowd management.

11.  MTSU News and Media Relations will coordinate with news agencies to distribute MTSU press releases, as they are made available, concerning critical incidents in order to inform the community of the incident, evacuation routes, and other information. The MTSU website and other social media networks may also be utilized to disseminate information outside the MTSU community concerning critical incidents.

III. MTSU Advisories (Timely Warnings)

A.  An MTSU Advisory is an alert issued after review of all available information concerning an incident or event occurring on campus that is considered to be a serious or continuing threat to MTSU students or employees, or to property. The University will issue MTSU Advisories to members of the campus community concerning crimes reported to a campus security authority or to a local law enforcement agency that are determined by the University to represent a serious or continuing threat to the campus. The information is provided with the intent to enable persons to protect themselves and to aid in the prevention of similar crimes. 

B.  Decisions whether to issue an MTSU Advisory are made on a case-by-case basis in light of all facts surrounding the crime, including factors such as:

1.  The nature of the crime;

2.  Whether the crime appears to be a one-time occurrence or a pattern of incidents;

3.  When and where the incident occurred, and when it was reported (If a crime is reported long after it occurred, there would be no ability to issue a timely warning and, thus, one would not be issued);

4.  The continuing danger to the campus community;

5.  The possible risk of compromising law enforcement efforts;

6.  Whether the perpetrator has been apprehended; and,

7.  Whether the perpetrator targeted specific individuals to the exclusion of others, such as with domestic violence.

C.  The following crimes are those for which an MTSU Advisory may be issued; they may also be issued for other crimes as deemed appropriate:

1.  Criminal Homicide

2.  Sexual Assault

3.  Robbery involving force or violence

4.  Aggravated Assault

5.  Burglary

6.  Motor Vehicle Theft

7.  Arson, major incidents

8.  Crimes of Intimidation, Simple Assault, Vandalism, and Larceny when those crimes are motivated by the offender’s hate/bias based on the victim’s race, gender, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity or national origin.

D.  University Police will contact the Vice President of Business and Finance to determine whether an MTSU Advisory will be issued. The Office of the University Counsel will also be consulted. If a timely warning is to be issued, University Police and the Director of MTSU News and Media Relations or designee may collaborate on the preparation of the MTSU Advisory which will be distributed to campus community members by News and Media Relations or by the Information Technology Division via MTSU’s Critical Notification System.

Forms:  none.

Revisions: none.

References: none.