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Why campus safety must include real-time crisis response

Based on current media coverage, when you say “campus safety measures” people automatically assume you are only talking about gun control. And while it is a concerning issue, some research actually says that campuses are safer now than they ever have been.

There are many things that make schools safe: attentive staff and educators, students who care about each other, campuses that are both accessible but secure, and communities who are also invested in the safety of the campuses and students. This can seem overwhelming but there are ways to integrate this multi-layered approach to campus safety. All stakeholders should be involved whenever possible and provide input to improve current safety measures as well as identify where there may be gaps as it relates to emergency management. Reaching out to different groups for their top concerns and potential solutions builds a better framework for overall safety.

You should also rely on open source intelligence to gather data about any perceived threats or events that may become a crisis situation. Open source intelligence is data gathered from the blogs we read, broadcasts we watch, journals we read, pictures and posts we share on social media, and so on. This is not secret information and it comes from publicly available material like the Internet, traditional mass media, social media networks, specialized journals, conference proceedings, think tank studies, photos, and geospatial information. And some events can be carefully planned for in advance but others that occur in real-time need sophisticated tools in order to ensure they can be monitored safely and effectively.

“The key in crisis response is remembering the goal: to provide information in real-time, to guide life-saving assets in troubled areas,” said Chris Adamczyk, Open Source Master Practitioner.

In any case, whether a crisis or just a minor safety issue, in order to respond effectively as quickly as possible, you need to have the appropriate information. It can be daunting to scan and qualify the volumes of information available as open source intelligence.

There are four phases to crisis management readiness as it relates to using real-time data states Adamczyk.


Preparation is used to set up searches using keywords and hashtags on a social network that would most likely be associated with a disaster, such as “active shooter,” “lockdown,” and “earthquake.” They will certainly change as the event unfolds and need to change on an ongoing basis.

Event Evolution

As an event unfolds, you should add specific keywords or hashtags from social media users to your search criteria. It may also lend to adding locations, since in incidents involving terror or school shooting the locations typically do not change.


The specific part of this phase that needs attention is ensuring that the practitioner has a plan for interacting with the victim(s) during a critical incident, as many do not have permission to interact with individual users. People who are trapped in crisis areas have increasingly been reaching out for help via social media and expect to get an answer from a known authority. Two key questions are: will interact with the victim place them in a more dangerous situation? And, will interact with the victim help vector more resources to an area and potentially save lives?


Small bits of analysis can be conducted during an event to answer critical questions. Do you see more information coming from certain areas? Does that area need more assistance?

Luckily, there are platforms available for campus security agencies that allow keywords to be integrated into searches that are tailored to specific situations and locations, thereby giving officials the opportunity to respond appropriately. Some cases may seem inflated based on reports and others that turn out to be quite serious, could go unnoticed under normal circumstances. Platforms like Media Sonar allow analysis to be conducted in real-time as much as possible during the event in order to drive assistance or resources to certain areas.

“Common sense dictates that full-scale analysis of the event and related data cannot be completed during the crisis but small bits of analysis can be conducted to answer critical questions,” explained Adamczyk.

There are multiple ways to make campuses safer and it will take multiple channels and stakeholders to accomplish it. By compiling our data and involving all the stakeholders, we can ensure our campuses continue to come safer and more inclusive for everyone.

Book a demo to find out how Media Sonar helps you detect and investigate threats in less time.

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