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Emergency Preparedness Part of School-wide Efforts for University Rec Centers

OVERLAND PARK, KS -- As many health clubs create or refine emergency preparedness plans in the aftermath of Tuesday’s shooting at a Pittsburgh-area LA Fitness, many university fitness facilities already have firm plans in place as part of their school’s campus-wide protocols.

The National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA) does not track data on which rec centers have emergency plans in case of a shooting, but many schools likely adopted broader codes of action as the result of school shootings, such as the Virginia Tech incident in April 2007, says Katherine Otten, NIRSA assistant director of marketing.

“My guess is that since an individual could open fire anywhere on a campus, these protocols are probably not limited to rec centers,” she says. “In the cases where such protocols exist, they are probably developed at the university-wide level.”

Gene C. Grzywna, director of campus recreation at Northeastern University in Boston, agrees. His school adopted the NU ALERT system, a set of university-wide emergency procedures, after the Virginia Tech shootings.

The Northeastern system uses a combination of e-mails, text messages and voice recordings to warn students and their parents about dangerous situations on campus and in the surrounding areas.

To encourage students to supply emergency contact information for the program, the school blocked student access to the myNEU online services Web site until they completed the form. Some 87 percent of students provided the university with cell phone numbers and non-school e-mail addresses for use in the NU ALERT program.

NU ALERT is powered by BlackBoard Connect, which offers emergency communications tools designed specifically for university settings. The system currently is used by nearly 200 colleges nationwide.

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