Staff Editorial: Alert system woes

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September 21, 2007

5:00 AM

Tuesday’s chemical spill at the Marketplace provided the College with its first opportunity to test the new emergency notification system. The system was adopted after the Virginia Tech shootings last April to provide an expedient response network that would inform students of campus emergencies. While it seems that the majority of students were made aware of the situation, the events of the day raised certain questions about the efficiency of the system, as well as the College’s approach to handling potentially tragic events.

p. The spill reportedly occurred at 9:30 a.m., yet the majority of students did not receive their warning phone calls until well after 11 a.m. because the messaged was reportedly sent at 11:15. While the situation in question was not extremely threatening, such a wide gap of time — as was the case at Virginia Tech — can potentially cost lives. In addition, Vice President for Student Affairs Sam Sadler said 157 students did not receive the message at all.

p. Furthermore, the automated text message service, which is supposed to instantaneously contact every registered cell phone on campus, failed to notify students in a timely manner. Many students did not receive text messages until 1 p.m. or later, more than three hours after the incident occurred. Also, some students have text messages from websites blocked on their cell phones and were not notified that the outside company relays the mass text message by e-mail.

p. It is also disconcerting that an entire month of school passed without a proper test of the system. Sadler informed students that the school was planning a trial run of the system, but the College waited too long. This chemical spill, though not a life-threatening emergency, served as a practical opportunity to test the system, but the results were discouraging.

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