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Emergency Alert serves campus responsibly

In the last few years, the United States has been rocked by a number of enormous tragedies. Of these tragedies — especially Katrina and the Virginia Tech massacre — many deaths and injuries could have been prevented through better communication.

Just days after 32 people were killed at Virginia Tech, the safety of our own students was virtually ignored when a bomb scare on campus property went unannounced to the students.

Given that our university is as vulnerable to serious incident as any other university, we are glad the administration has considered the events like the massacre in Virginia, and acted on them. Seven days before the findings of the first official internal report on the shootings at Tech, the Carnegie Mellon Emergency Alert service was announced.

A voluntary program, the Emergency Alert sends an automated voice message to a valid phone number of your choice in the case of urgent news or an emergency situation. Using cell phones to communicate important news to students is popular: the University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne, Slippery Rock, and Indiana University of Pennsylvania — all Pittsburgh- or greater-Pittsburgh-area schools — have enacted similar methods of emergency contact, and over
3400 Carnegie Mellon students have already signed up for the program.

Other preventative actions taken on campuses include an instant lockdown of all buildings, which is not on Carnegie Mellon’s agenda. While some may hope for more conservative measures, we’re glad to have the assurance of protection without the big brother feeling.

The university’s emergency plan has been in place for a few years, but Emergency Alert is the first part of the system to actively alert students, instead of just faculty and staff. It’s hard to believe that students — who are the university — were left out of the plan for so long, and sad that it took an event like the Virgina Tech massacre to spark change, but great that the university was both quick to learn from it and quick to invoke the appropriate change; perhaps even better is that so many students see the value in the program. The system also seems to be working well — students who signed up for the program were alerted of the bomb threat on Doherty Hall and Mellon Institute this past Friday.

We encourage everyone to participate; visit my.cmu.edu/site/main/page.alert.