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The Flip Side of Emergency Alerting

March 25, 2008

Anyone with a Google Alert for “emergency alerting” (yeah, okay, so I’m the only one), knows that just about every day, a new press release pops into their inbox extolling the foresight and overwhelming concern at some university for the student body with the introduction of some new community alerting system. Following the Virginia Tech incident, it seems that every university is investing tons and tons of money to let their campus know about a potential threat.

Now, I’m all for keeping people in the loop, and think that robust communication systems should exist in all facets of our lives, but wonder how thoroughly these systems have been thought through.

For example, a couple of weeks ago, there was an outcry against the non-use of the “WolfAlert” system in place at North Carolina State University. An article in the local news section of WRAL – Raleigh described the situation:

Two students told police they were near 2110 Avent Ferry Road at about 9 p.m. Monday when a man wearing a mask and armed with a knife robbed them. A graduate student was leaving a building on the Centennial Campus on Tuesday afternoon when two men armed with a handgun demanded his wallet.

Now, I grew up and went to school in a major East Coast city, so a couple of stick-ups is just life, as far as I’m concerned. But down south, in a bucolic setting like NC State, especially after Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois, folks can be a bit jittery. According to the article:

“I think an armed robber on campus should merit a text message,” [N.C. State student David] Orr said. That was the opinion of every student WRAL spoke with Wednesday.

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