On a weekday morning in August, a gas line was accidentally cut between McCarty Hall and Century Tower, and authorities had to act quickly.
Their priority was to keep people safe and get emergency teams to the scene. Within minutes, they closed a major road and alerted over 63,000 people by text message to avoid the area.
Within an hour, firefighters had cleared the scene, the roadway had reopened, and everyone was informed that it was no longer necessary to avoid the area.
The UF Alert System, which was responsible for sending that morning’s notifications to tens of thousands of people — mostly by text message — is the university’s response to a federal law enacted in 1990 requiring institutions to provide accurate and transparent information on emergency situations. as well as crimes on or near campus with timely warnings and emergency notifications.
The Clery law
The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, or Clery Act, requires all universities and colleges that receive Title IV funding to maintain policies and procedures that address campus security, crime prevention, crime and victim services. The goal is to arm students, faculty, staff, and members of the university community with knowledge to help individuals make informed decisions and take an active role in their personal safety.
“The spirit of the Clery Act is transparency,” said Rebecca DeCesare, associate director of compliance and ethics and UF’s Clery chief compliance officer. “With this in mind, the UF Alert System is the mechanism for the university to communicate about emergencies or crimes that occur.”
DeCesare explained that the UF alert system sends three different mass communication messages, including emergency notifications (called UF alerts on the Gainesville campus) and timely warnings, both of which are required under the Clery law.
Three types of messages
A UF Alert is issued primarily via SMS/text messages, push notifications from the GatorSafe app, UF Alert and UF Public Safety social media posts, email, VOIP phone messages, and as a banner on the homepage UF when a significant emergency or hazardous situation occurs on campus that involves an immediate threat to the health or safety of students, faculty, and staff. These are usually short and can include several messages sent within a period of time, providing information about the situation and a call to action for the recipients. UF alerts are sent when emergencies occur in real time and may be criminal, weather-related, or pose other types of danger to the UF community.
Timely warning is sent primarily via email, GatorSafe app push notification, UF Alert and UF Public Safety social media posts, and as a banner on the UF homepage when a Clery crime that poses a serious or continuing threat to students, faculty, and staff shall be reported to the university police department or a campus security authority. A timely warning tends to be longer than alerts and does not require follow-up messages. Warnings provide detailed information about the crime with the aim of preventing similar offenses in the future.
A recent example came on September 7 when the UFPD sent out a timely warning message informing the campus community of an increase in motor vehicle thefts on campus. The message added tips for keeping vehicles safe and described how the UFPD was combating theft by increasing patrols of parking areas on campus.
“These messages are important for two reasons,” DeCesare said. “They keep our community informed of emergencies that could impact their health and safety, and they provide instructions and information on how to protect yourself and others.”
The third type of message in the UF Alert System – Campus Safety Messages – is a newer mechanism for UF Public Safety to share information with the community regarding issues that do not meet the criteria to be sent as timely warning or UF alert under the Clery Act.
UF’s Office of Compliance and Ethics relies on partners across the university to meet Clery law requirements, including the UFPD, Department of Emergency Management, Office of accessibility and gender equity, student conduct and conflict resolution, UF Housing, GatorWell, and UF Health Security. . Additionally, more than 2,000 employees are designated and trained each year as campus security authorities., serve as mandatory reporters for those who do not wish to report to the police.
Annual reports published before October 1
In addition to timely emergency notifications and warnings, the Clery Act requires universities to publish annual safety and fire safety reports each year. The Safety Report includes statistics on crimes reported in the previous three years that occurred on campus or in premises belonging to UF or officially recognized student organizations, as well as public property immediately adjacent to UF .
The annual fire safety report contains information on fire safety systems and statistics for student residences on campus, as well as information on fire safety policy. It also details procedures for evacuating student accommodation in the event of a fire, policies regarding fire safety education for students and employees, and the credentials of each person or organization to whom individuals must report a fire.
Annual Safety and Fire Safety Reports are published on October 1 each year and can be viewed at: https://clery.compliance.ufl.edu/annual-security-and-fire-safety-reports/.
For more information about the Clery Act and the university’s commitment to keeping the campus community informed and safe in the event of an emergency, please visit https://clery.compliance.ufl.edu/.
Be sure to update your contact information and UF alert preferences in ONE.UF.