The campus response Monday to reported threats and suspicious activity is an example of how emergency situations should be handled. USF’s emergency alert system notified students, staff and parents through as many channels as possible.
Though nothing serious occurred and no gunmen were found, the emergency response was quick and effective. After campus violence like the Virginia Tech shooting, universities must be prepared to respond to threats and keep students informed for their safety.
During the scare, students were sent a total of seven text messages through MoBull, the emergency text message alert system. Students were told of possible armed suspects on campus and given specific information such as what areas to avoid.
The first message was sent 10 minutes after University Police responded to the incident. This is perhaps the best response time that can be hoped for in this kind of situation.
Some students were unsure of where to go at first because the first message did not say what areas to avoid. However, the message was likely the best that could be sent in such a short period of time. It was better to warn students than to wait for more details.
The Emergency Notification System (ENS) was also used shortly before the first text message and prior to a message reporting a separate suspect on a Bull Runner.
ENS was installed in 2009 and consists of eight emergency warning stations that broadcast warnings across campus. Each station blasts a siren followed by a prerecorded voice message – in this case alerting students to an armed intruder on campus.
Though it can’t give any specifics, ENS got students’ attention. They knew to stay inside and check their phones and e-mail for further alerts. In addition to text messages, USF sent out e-mails and posted updates on the main Web site.
The emergency response was a resounding success compared to previous failures this year. Students were not notified via MoBull when a man pulled a gun during a talent show in Cooper Hall and attempted to flee campus. Nor were they informed when a bomb threat led to a residence hall evacuation.
On Monday, students were updated on a gun scare, a bomb scare and a man with a knife. It is clear that past problems with MoBull have been addressed and the new ENS has been successfully integrated into the response system. The University must continue this trend.