Methods of Communication in an Emergency

There are generally two main methods of communication in an emergency:

a)    Primary Communication Channels:

The role of primary communications methods is the dissemination of important and up-to-date information to the majority of University stakeholders. It could take the form of campus radio station broadcasts and, where possible, also include telephone systems and web pages. Primary communications channels should be well-known in advance and thus, by necessity, broadcast. These include:

  • CPU Emergency line: 046-603.8999 or 8146/7
  • Radio: RMR (89.7FM) and/or Radio Grahamstown or, if no signal, SAFM (96.7FM)  
  • Rhodes University emergency web page:

b)    Secondary Communication Channels:

Secondary communications methods are used to make people aware that a crisis exists and that they should pay attention to the primary communications channel for information. This includes any technology available: e-mail, telephony, mobile / cell phones (official / personal), SMS, vuvuzelas, word of mouth, etc. Ideally, some type of siren or intercom system is needed to alert everyone to a critical situation that affects the whole of campus, for example, a hostile intruder or release of hazardous material (accidental or intentional).

Secondary channels may also be used to answer questions, but this should be the exception rather than the norm in an emergency situation. The technologies can be unreliable, but this risk can be mitigated by:

(i)           Involving a number of different technologies,

(ii)          Keeping the message simple,

(iii)         Referring the person on to a primary communication method, and

(iv)        Bearing in mind that people may already know about both the crisis and the primary channels.

Two mailing lists that serve as secondary communications channels (or primary channels, if the situation is not time-critical) are:

  • - moderated by the Communications Division; all staff are subscribed by default, but can choose to unsubscribe; it is a general announcement list, but has wide reach.
  • - moderated by the Vice Chancellor and/or two DVCs; all students are automatically subscribed, and cannot unsubscribe. As its name suggests, it is only for emergency communications.

In both cases, the IT Division can perform moderation actions if the moderators are unavailable and the situation demands it.

Last Modified: Thu, 07 Aug 2014 10:12:05 SAST