Microsoft Publishes Case Study About SHU’s Emergency Management System

News Story: November 28, 2009

Microsoft Corporation has recognized the ingenuity of Sacred Heart University’s award-winning online emergency management system by featuring it in a published case study.

The Comprehensive All-Hazard and Business Continuity Plan uses Microsoft SharePoint software to make SHU’s emergency plan accessible 24 hours a day, every day of the year, to all of the University’s municipal, state and federal emergency services partners. The system includes building plans, information about specific facilities, and site pictures of every aspect of the buildings. The application was developed entirely at SHU by the Information Technology and Public Safety departments.

The Microsoft case study reports: “Taking its responsibility to students, faculty, and staff seriously, Sacred Heart University wanted a highly effective emergency response plan — one that could be updated at any time, with information always available to first responders and other authorized users. The result is more detailed, up-to-date plans and better interagency coordination.”

“We chose to highlight SHU with our case study process as we recognized the unique way in which they leveraged SharePoint to collaborate with first responders to address a critical campus security need,” says Dan Pessin, strategic account executive for Microsoft Higher Education. “Emergency and incident management is the highest priority for many universities. Sacred Heart has addressed this need by leveraging software that they were already using. Furthermore, in the spirit of collaboration, Sacred Heart offered to make their SharePoint templates available to other universities that are trying to address this same need on their campuses.”

SHU Executive Director for Emergency Management and DPS Paul Healy, who conceived and spearheaded creating the application, says his impetus was simply to make the University’s emergency management plan easier to update, disseminate and access, for the benefit of the entire community. He researched available software for posting SHU’s emergency plans online, but balked at costs ranging from $40,000 to $140,000. So he and IT took matters into their own hands, basing their solution on software the University had already paid for.

“We wanted to take the plan and make it more intuitive and accessible to the University, and to get away from managing this through three-ring binders,” Healy says. “Through our contact with Microsoft, I inquired to see if other universities were using SharePoint for this particular kind of program, and they weren’t. So we created our own.”

SHU’s online system was unveiled in September to members of the fire, police, EMS and health services from Trumbull, Bridgeport and Fairfield, along with representatives of the Connecticut Department of Public Safety, FEMA’s Region 1 office in Boston, the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, and the Connecticut commissioner for Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

Several agencies have since commended Healy for developing the plan. Norwalk Police Chief Dennis McCarthy is emulating SHU’s system in that community, and Sands Cleary, the health director for the municipality of Fairfield, is considering instituting a similar system. Healy recently received a letter from the commissioner of the State of Connecticut Department of Emergency Management congratulating the SHU team on winning first-place honors from the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) at the IAEM 57th Annual Conference in October.

The first-place award for Technology & Innovation was presented to Healy and Director of Public Safety Jack Fernandez at the conference in Orlando, Florida. The honors were presented within the division that covers state, regional or national government, international, or non-profit organizations.

When Microsoft noticed, too, Healy was thrilled. “I was excited that they recognized the effort that our Public Safety and IT departments put into this project,” he says. “Institutions of higher education are mandated under federal and most states’ guidelines to have an emergency management plan for the institution, and this was a great way to deploy it versus paper systems.”

The Microsoft case study can be read online here.