Prepared For an Emergency?

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Published: October 25, 2007

Fordham University is equipped with the necessary technology to let everyone in the community know that there is an emergency situation. As the plan exists on paper, in the event of an emergency, Fordham will send all students, faculty and administrators, along with students’ emergency contacts, a text message informing them that there is an emergency.  An email will also be sent to all Fordham email accounts and alternative accounts that students have to provide to the university through OASIS.  Announcements will be made over all public address systems, voicemails will be left on students’ telephones in McMahon Hall, and all televisions on campus will display warning messages as well.

That’s on paper.  But since the system has never been tested on all members of the Fordham community, we wonder does it really work and will it be effective?

In theory, sending a mass text message to our cell phones is probably the best way to inform people about an emergency.  Students tend to carry their cell phones at all times and check them regularly.  The same is probably true for faculty and administrators.  But how many parents, who are many students’ emergency contacts, know how to text message or even have a cell phone?

In a recent, and admittedly informal poll, conducted in Fordham a class, 22 students were asked several questions about their knowledge of the university’s campus security system. Sixty-eight percent said that their parents don’t know how to text message or don’t have a cell phone, and only 31.8 percent said that their parents would receive the emergency text message should one be sent.  Fordham has done its part by sending a letter to students asking them to update their email and phone records on OASIS, so that the university would have the most current information.  Now we have to do our part.

The poll also revealed that 46.5 percent   of students didn’t even know about the letter that was sent out over the summer. While 54.5 percent where aware of the letter, only 25 percent of those who knew they received it actually logged onto OASIS and updated their information.  This is the personal information used by the university when it needs to contact you and your family in an emergency.  Fordham must come up with a more effective way of getting its students to update their information.  Perhaps having professors hand out a memo during the first week of classes would help.

But even if Fordham has every cell phone number of every student, we need to know that the system actually works.  To ensure the validity of the system, we suggest scheduling a date for a drill, just like we have fire drills. With plenty of warning to students, their families, faculty and staff, Fordham should send out a fake mass text message and email to the Fordham community.  This would be a positive way of informing students about the security system. It would make all the recipients aware of what the message would look like should a real one ever be sent to them.

As of now, it is clear that many students do not know about the university’s campus security system, meaning it might not be that effective.  Security is a number one priority. Therefore, Fordham needs to go the extra mile to ensure that all the students are aware of the system and that their information is up to date—maybe by withholding pin numbers for registration until a student has logged onto OASIS and updated their information.  Nonetheless, something needs to be done to ensure everyone’s safety.