At issue: Promptness of Emerson emergency alert system
Our take: Time is not on our side
On Sept. 12, a man unaffiliated with the college was shot on Boston Common by an active shooter. Students were warned of the attack at 6:59 p.m. via text messages and phone calls powered by Rave Alert, the official emergency communication platform of the college. The notifications went out four minutes after Emerson College Police Department was notified by the Boston Police Department and 12 minutes after the shooting occurred.
According to ECPD Deputy Chief Eric Shiazza, the alert took four minutes to send out because sending an alert requires personnel to log in, properly word the message, prepare for distribution, and ensure accurate wording.
Four minutes might seem like no time at all, but it can be an eternity when it comes to safety. Should it really take that long to log in, write a message, and hit send, especially when most of that process can be automated? This is an especially long time when we know (based on deleted tweets on the day of the incident) that ECPD has templates for these alerts. Four minutes is long enough to listen to “Take on Me” by A-ha. It’s enough time to watch 40 Vines or bake a whole personal pie at Blaze Pizza. (We checked.)
Four minutes was nearly enough time to unload over 150 rounds at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Delayed response times from ECPD are not limited to the emergency alert system. Last year when a student reported being assaulted by a man on Boylston Street, ECPD waited two months to finally release a campus advisory. Over the course of this two-month delay, students reported at least two sexual assaults by a man fitting his description to ECPD.
Even for events such as these, which are considered non-emergency safety advisories, ECPD fails to perform. This is more apparent than ever in the cases of sexual assault on campus, where the response time can be far longer than a few minutes. No matter how long it takes to alert the campus to these threats, it is too long. Even if some information is unclear, or the wording of an alert is sensitive, our school should adopt a policy of better safe than sorry.
When it comes to student safety on campus, the priority should be to make students aware of potential dangers so that they can be prepared. If students feel they need to approach ECPD and report an incident on campus, the first response should not be to fact check those students, but rather inform the rest of the campus. Should the report turn out to be false, or if the threat is unfounded, there is no danger in students being vigilant; there is, however, a danger in waiting to report potential problems because of a lack of trust.
Students should feel comfortable knowing that their police department is actively informing them of any potential dangers on campus. When ECPD fails to carry out even this most basic task, where does that leave us? What’s the point of even having police if they don’t protect the very people they’re supposed to be protecting? It shouldn’t have to be said that student safety is the number one priority of a college campus police department.