Time-Efficient Campus Safety

Sometimes the budget challenges faced by many colleges and universities have compounded another hurdle faced by most campus officials who have responsibilities for safety, security, and emergency preparedness — limitations on time. As with safety efforts in many other settings, higher-education safety officials must compete with the busy schedules of students and staff in order to find time to provide training, practice, and to disseminate information. Few higher-education organizations afford adequate time for training of employees in these three distinct areas. Staffing and program reductions at some institutions have created even more of a challenge, as these types of cuts often result in campus employees being required to take on additional work responsibilities, further reducing the time they have available to attend training, meetings, drills, and exercises. These challenges create new opportunities to challenge how safety, security, and emergency preparedness information is disseminated to staff and students.

Finding the Time
Effective strategies to inform the campus community increasingly require improved time utilization to have significant impact. Many years ago, the university I worked for created an excellent quality service management program and required all employees to attend mandatory training sessions to affect a campus-wide change in customer service. Like all supervisors, I was required to attend a 40-hour training session on quality service management. I wonder how likely it would be that this initiative could be rolled out the same way in today’s tough economic climate. I am confident that if this important initiative were being implemented today, those in charge of the program would be forced to deliver as much content and value with a smaller budget and with far less commitment of staff time.

Looking back on how I have managed time as a campus law enforcement administrator, consultant, and trainer through the years, I recall occasions where I could have been far more efficient in the use of time and budget to affect change. I know that the way I now present information is far different than it was only two or three years ago. Whether keynoting, facilitating planning meetings, writing Web courses, or scripting training videos, it is now easy for me to see that I was not as time-efficient at these tasks just five years ago. Some of the initiatives I have participated in have forced me to condense more information into less time in each of these areas. Though this is even more challenging in a society which is highly influenced by an astounding level of television and Internet consumption, it is possible to work within these influences to communicate in a manner designed to effectively compete with these influences.

Packaging the Information
Through careful crafting of words, messages, imagery, and appropriate utilization of the amazing technology available to us today, a great deal of useful information can be compressed into user-friendly formats in ways that improve retention. Seeking a balance between depth of content, methods of presentation, and careful consideration of improving the ability of people to retain the information they are provided takes careful thought, but it is well worthwhile. Of special importance is a focus on the quality of the content to be delivered. There are numerous examples of training programs, videos, and Web courses that contain either seriously flawed content or good content presented in a manner that is likely to inadvertently cause those who receive the information to retain the wrong portions of the message.

For example, law enforcement training videos from the 1970s and 1980s frequently used a technique where the viewer was verbally told the correct technique to apply, followed by reenactments of officers performing inappropriate applications of technique which resulted in the officer(s) being shot, stabbed, or otherwise experiencing a negative outcome. Through time, law enforcement trainers began to realize that trainees where often performing the incorrect techniques that they had been shown, even though the training videos depicted extremely negative outcomes as a result of these techniques. Examining the research on how we learn reveals a tendency for us to recall video more reliably than words, which can result in trainees remembering the negative actions depicted more than the words that tell them why they should not perform the actions they are seeing.

Careful consideration of the content as well as manner of delivery to students and staff should be a key consideration in efforts to train, inform, and afford people the opportunity to practice safety, security, and emergency preparedness concepts. As the time allotted to these important efforts is often shrinking in spite of significant need, the quality of our efforts to inform should be a focal point in making the most of that time which is available. 

Michael Dorn serves as the executive director for Safe Havens International, Inc., an IRS-approved, nonprofit safety center. He has authored and co-authored more than 20 books on campus safety. He can be reached through the Safe Havens Website.

About the Author

Michael Dorn serves as the executive director for Safe Havens International, Inc., an IRS-approved, nonprofit safety center. He has authored and co-authored more than 20 books on campus safety. He can be reached through the Safe Havens website at www.safehavensinternational.org.