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Barbara Lombardo of Saratoga Springs, NY, is a journalism adjunct at University at Albany and retired executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Skidmore College earns A+ for getting word out in emergencies

Reporter Paul Post took this picture of police
responding to Monday's bomb scare on the
Skidmore College campus. 
No one was hurt, thank goodness, when Skidmore College faced a couple of recent safety threats — the Oct. 1 lockdown prompted by the presence of an accused rapist, who was apprehended, and Monday’s bomb scare, which, happily, turned up nothing and resulted in canceled morning classes. The police did their jobs well in both cases. And what is also worth noting is how well the school’s emergency notification system works. The college wasted not a second getting its warnings out, using texts, email, updates on, and notification via Facebook and Twitter, as well as alerting the region's media. The notification system worked. In addition, in both recent cases, Skidmore sent emails to parents after the emergencies were resolved.

I asked the college communications folks for more details, and Dan Forbush explained that Skidmore has the ability to send an emergency alert to students and employees simultaneously by phone (converting the typed message to voice), text, and email, and also deliver it instantly to their own home page, Facebook page, and Twitter feed. “When an emergency arises, Campus Safety uses e2campus to summon all the key people to a conference bridge, so that we’re able to constantly pool our information and determine essential messages to be transmitted, not only to students, faculty, and staff, but also to parents. It takes a lot of teamwork,” Forbush wrote. 

After incidents like these, the dean of students and campus safety director review what went well and what could have done better. “We always learn a few valuable lessons that help us confront the next emergency situation, whatever it may be,” Forbush said.

“It’s worth noting that in both of these recent incidents, students played key roles,” he added. “In the first, students spotted the intruder and immediately reported it to Campus Safety. In the second, it was a student who found the threatening note and brought to Campus Safety. We appreciate their vigilance and assistance.”

We appreciate the students’ vigilance, too, as well as the good work of the college and police.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Election Night focuses on the Internet

It’s 1:30 a.m., way too late to be blogging for someone who’s been up since 6 a.m. and has to be back at this desk in seven hours. But we just wrapped up Election Night online coverage, and I wanted to tell you how proud I am of the way our staff turned around results for readers of and and followers on Twitter and Facebook.
A number of races were uncontested and several weakly contested – but some were hard-fought campaigns that could have gone either way till all the ballots were in. Keeping tabs on results kept reporters at their various campaign locations and the handful of editors at The Record and The Saratogian (Lisa Lewis, Chelsea Kruger, Paul Tackett, Lianne Kim and Karen Wallingford -- yes, you can count us on one hand) hopping from the time the polls closed till past midnight. We wanted to be able to tell you who won the local races, as well as what was happening nationally.
To be sure, it’s weird to publish print editions before the polls close. Even after a couple of election cycles with the deadline, I don’t like having a morning paper without last night’s results. But that did free us tonight to concentrate on being where most readers are: on the Internet.

As for the campaigns: I’d like to say kudos to all the candidates who cared enough about their community, state and country to run for office; and congratulations to those who won. I’m so glad the robo-calls and mailings will be on hold for a few months. And I’m glad to say that I picked some winners when I voted Tuesday morning.