The first thing we did in this regard is to distinguish between two similar pages. We have a "crisis web page" and we have an "emergency web page".
The crisis web page is simply a dumbed down version of our home page, no images. It stands ready to be used when needed. The main goal for this page is to prevent our server from crashing in a situation where we expect a major spike in traffic. Such a situation could be a crime on campus (i.e. Virginia Tech), a major dignitary visiting campus, (U.S. president, Pope, etc). Any local situation that would cause a major spike web traffic qualifies. The page itself is designed to get visitors to the major information they need with one click. While other standard links still exist, the usual priorities of recruiting, soliciting donations, etc take a back seat during this situation.
The emergency web page is used when something happens to prevent access to our usual web server. Our web site is hosted here on campus. So, for example, if a tornado wipes out the IT building, we'd need to use the emergency site. Or if our internet access goes down for whatever reason, we'd need it (like when someone accidentally cut a fiber line not far from campus a couple years ago, which prevented the world from seeing our web site for a few hours). Our emergency site is hosted 130 miles from campus. It's new, so we haven't used it yet. If/when something happens, a couple of us need to leave campus and go to a place with internet access (i.e. home). Another guy takes care of flipping some DNS settings. I take care of the site content itself.
There are situations where both of the above could end up being the same site, like if a tornado hits campus. But it's important to know the differences. For us, the crisis page still provides access to the entire site, but with a dumbed down home page; it's assumed the IT infrastructure is still in place. On the other hand, the emergency site is only a couple of pages (with the ability to grow), meant to give info to the visitor as to why they cannot access our site.
There are campuses who use mirroring to make sure that their emergency site is still a complete web site. We just choose not to do that (everything has its costs).
We don't have anything as of yet, but it is on my list of things to do by the end of the year. We do have some crisis workflow policy in place, and I plan on talking to the PR people who would be responsible for getting the information out to see what we would need to facilitate getting all the key data from point A to point B in the lightest weight way possible.
Of note, our CMS has a good caching system, so once the page is loaded once, it doesn't hit the database for it again unless the information changes.
Also of note, isn't it sad that we have to account for such things these days?
We do have an alert system on the homepage. Not exactly the same things you guys are talking about here though. We use it for cases like University Closing due to Weather Conditions and the like. Basically a div with information shows up on page load. The div can then be closed.
Sounds like a good idea to have these other measures in place though.
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