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Tuesday May 30th

Campus Safety ramps up emergency preparedness resources with classroom QR codes

Room 0058 in Carroll Hall has a QR code with emergency preparedness resources on the teacher's podium at the front of the classroom on Monday, March 6. Virtually all classrooms on campus will have the QR codes added.
Buy Photos Room 0058 in Carroll Hall has a QR code with emergency preparedness resources on the teacher's podium at the front of the classroom on Monday, March 6. Virtually all classrooms on campus will have the QR codes added.

Professor Kelly Hogan remembers seeing several police cars from her office window before leaving to teach her Biology 101 class in 2015. When she received an alert about a possible armed person on campus, Hogan ushered students inside a Genome Sciences Building lecture hall and decided to lock the doors. 

She encountered one problem: the doors wouldn't lock. 

While the situation was a false alarm, it encouraged Hogan to think about the resources that faculty, staff and students need to feel safe in a learning environment during an emergency.

Hogan used her role as the associate dean of the Office of Instructional Innovation to gather input from faculty on classroom safety and improve access to emergency preparedness resources. A group of faculty—including Hogan and representatives from Campus Safety, University police, the Center for Faculty Excellence and others—have worked together to implement new projects.

Most recently, the group designed an emergency checklist for faculty to ensure familiarity with classroom facilities and safety procedures. This checklist is embedded in a QR code placed on the podiums of large lecture halls, a measure that was implemented at the beginning of the semester.

When the code is scanned, it opens a "resource hub" compiled by Campus Safety, which includes the emergency checklist and information about the types of locking mechanisms in different classrooms. 

“I think people are starting to become more aware, and putting the QR codes on the consoles in the classroom and announcing it is something we're gonna have to do every semester to remind people until it becomes habit,” Hogan said.

The QR code is also displayed on the login page of classroom computers, so it is the first thing professors see when they sign in. Furthermore, instructors who teach in these classrooms receive an email at the start of each semester that contains the link to the QR code and other safety information. 

“So regardless of if it's before something happens, during a disruption or after that, they can familiarize themselves and know that they can access that to provide some guidance to them,” said Darrell Jeter, emergency management and planning director of Campus Safety.

Campus Safety is also improving systems that are already in place, such as the Carolina Ready app, which serves as a directory for a variety of campus resources. The department collaborated with student groups in the fall to organize the Zombie Preparedness Festival and is working to create resources for targeted audiences, including residential students, families and office-based staff.

“While we have UNC Police; Environment, Health and Safety; and other campus safety resources and departments whose primary roles are to focus on the safety of our campus community, we realized that for it to be effective on the implementation side, our partnership with the students, with the faculty and with the staff really becomes vital,” Jeter said.

A large part of this challenge is informing all students and faculty about the emergency information available to them. First-year student Marco Passalacqua said he noticed a decreased emphasis on emergency preparedness after transitioning from high school to college. 

“In high school and middle school, they’ve always made that clear for every class, but in college, I can’t recall a time that that was covered by our professors,” he said. 

Having a QR code available to professors would give him peace of mind about the possibility of an emergency situation, Passalacqua added.

Hogan also wants to increase awareness of emergency preparedness among students, and her motivation doesn’t only stem from her experience in 2015.

“I'm a mother," she said. "My son is a first-year at Carolina. So it's not just campus safety for myself and students. These students include my son. So, it's something that I'd like to see our students think more about."

At the beginning of this semester, Hogan led her teaching assistants in an assessment of classroom resources. She emphasized the importance of students speaking up to faculty in the case of an Alert Carolina, as students are often the first to see the notification if a professor is busy lecturing. Additionally, Hogan encouraged faculty to follow the faculty checklist and discuss safety procedures with their students the first week of class. 

“Students are going to look to the leaders in the classroom, and if the leaders in the classroom haven’t thought about it, it’s going to be that much harder,” she said.

Campus Safety hopes to continue expanding access to emergency preparedness information, as well as collaborating with faculty and students to implement more resources.

“The sense that you have options, and you can take action during any emergency, as opposed to feeling overwhelmed with fear and anxiety about what has occurred, is what I hope will come out of this,” Jeter said.


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