How To Stay In Touch With Your College Student During University Emergencies         

By Laura & Janet Greenwald


In the middle of a busy, but quiet day in a Midwestern university lecture hall, the silence was pierced by a hail of gunfire.  Students ran out of the hall and ducked under tables.  Those that couldnít move tried to make themselves as invisible as possible until help arrived.  

That day at Northern Illinois University, five students lost their lives and many others were injured.  Even as the police and security were struggling to control the situation, a few people were able to find out what was happening, in real time.  A few parents and friends were lucky enough to know that their children were all right.  They experienced the whole think as it unfolded.

How?  Facebook and Twitter!  As unbelievable as it sounds, students ingeniously found a way to use their favorite way of keeping in touch with their friends and the latest gossip, as a tool to connect to the outside world. 

Facebook and Twitter to the Rescue

Tweets were going out on Twitter Ė if you donít know what this means, ask your kid!  Notes and messages were suddenly going up on Facebook pages.  Messages to friends and family that students in the thick of things, were all right, friends looking for other friends and in the hours that followed, pages memorializing the fallen.

It was an amazing display of people who grew up being in touch with their friends 24/7, finding a way to communicate and through it to connect, to heal and to survive.

Facebook, Twitter and even simply texting each other is a GREAT way to stay in touch during an emergency.  You can find out in seconds where everyone is, can mobilize family and friends to be at the side of an ill or injured family member Ė you can even decide where to meet or what to do in a dire emergency in real time, with up to the minute information.  Most importantly you can bring your loved ones together, just when you need each other the most.  On your studentís Wallet Card, youíll find a section to enter IM and twitter information, so that any time your student needs it use it, sheíll have it.

Family Emergency Plan

And just because your child is off at school, donít forget to include her in your familyís emergency plan.  As we all discovered after 9/11, disasters can occur anywhere, at any time, in more than one geographic location. 

Make sure that you have a plan that will keep your family in constant communication and if necessary, reunite them as quickly as possible.  Letís say that something happens in your immediate area or in the area where your child attends college.  Youíre going to want to know that she is all right, or relay the message to her that you and your family are well.  But if the telephones or other infrastructure is down, that could be difficult.  Even if youíre unable to call someone in the same town, you might be able to call long distance, so naming an out of town relative or friend as your touch point, can give your entire family a way to reconnect quickly. 

Communication:  Above All, Do What Works

You and your student are the best judges of what types of information and communication systems will work best for him.  Someone who is not organized wonít suddenly be responsible about updating and safeguarding his own vital information.  All students need to have their vital information stored in a way that they can easily obtain and use it. 

Once youíve figured out a plan that works and have it up and running, (besides the occasional updates), you and your student can forget about it and get on with your lives, secure in the knowledge that it will be there for him, if itís ever needed.


Keeping your students safe isnít up to the university, itís up to YOU! 

Reviewing your preparation is just ONE way to keep you and your college student safe.  We have many more...

How about Grab it and Go Forms to capture your student's medical history, insurance, financial and vital documents, that can be filled out by hand, or by computer, secured and ready whenever you need them?  Or customizable emergency action plans, dorm inventory, tips, checklists and  printable wallet cards.   Don't Lose All Your Stuff At College - Parent Edition.



Laura and Janet Greenwald, are the founders of The Next of Kin Education Project and Stuf Productions.  The mother & daughter team were not only instrumental in enacting three Next of Kin Laws in California and Illinois, but created the Seven Steps to Successful Notification System, which teaches quick, easy, next of kin notification skills for trauma patients to hospitals like Dallasí Methodist Medical Center. 

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