It seems that a week cannot go by without tragic news of another school shooting. Between the country’s deadliest shooting at Virginia Tech last year, and the surprising Valentine’s Day massacre at Northern Illinois University last week, schools across the country are trying to find ways to provide safer, faster notification systems on college campuses.
One of the most promising methods of crisis control is a school-wide emergency notification system.
The University of La Verne is currently working toward implementing the National Notification Network.
The “3N” system is the same network that provided information to Pepperdine University students regarding the Malibu fires last fall.
The 3N system is being brought to ULV through the risk management department, directed by Clark Hitt, who is hoping to launch the system by March. The system entails notifying registered students, faculty and staff of emergencies on campus, predominately via cell phone.
“An alert would notify anything that would possibly prevent class in a building on campus, including gas leaks, fires, or even weapons and explosives on campus,” said Michael Nunez, director of campus safety and transportation.
Fred Yaffe, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, explained that while there is no fool-proof way for detecting problematic individuals and preventing tragedy on campus, safety precautions can be taken.
“What’s going to happen next? Where will it occur? What can we do to prevent it? We can be cautious and take every possible, reasonable step to ensure a safer campus,” Yaffe said.
Even students who live off campus will benefit from the system. For instance, “if an earthquake causes damage on campus, a notification would be sent out to alert a student not to come to class,” Hitt said.
“Whether the system prevents all forms of tragedy is uncertain. But it is still worthwhile in terms of alerting the campus of other forms of emergencies,” Yaffe said.
Enrollment is voluntary and simple to follow. The risk management department plans to email members of the ULV community in the next few weeks explaining further information for those interested. Directions will be provided in the email, which will guide enrollers through the 3N Web site to register. Following this semester an enrollment opportunity will be available to students during class registration.
“At the University of La Verne, we’re taking an elective approach to the system, though we encourage everyone to join,” Hitt said.
A major concern of emergency notification systems is that personal information will be sold to other parties.
“It’s not going to be a big brother,” Nunez said. “The student information is stored in the 3N system, and will only be used in emergency situations.”
The personal information is provided by the student, and only includes the best methods in which to reach them. Text messages, voice mails and e-mails will be the most likely ways to convey an emergency notification.
Countless schools nationwide have already signed up for one of the many types of notification systems available. Schools in Southern California that use it include Pepperdine University, the University of Southern California and the Claremont Colleges.
“The 3N system will cost ULV $800 to $900 a month, provided by general ULV funding,” Hitt said. Yet students, faculty and staff may enroll at no cost.
Both Hitt and Nunez alluded to last year’s Virginia Tech shootings, explaining that the school had an existing notification system at the time of the crisis but due to the low voluntary enrollment, only a small number of students received notification.
“If someone doesn’t sign up, they can’t say they weren’t notified,” Nunez said.
It is unknown whether ULV will reap the benefits of the system in a crisis, but what is certain is that everyone can do his part to ensure a safer community by notifying campus safety of any strange behavior and simply being aware of notifications on campus.
Lesley Michaels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.