OPINION: The Emergency Alert System Failed

Austin Belet, Opinions Writer

On Feb. 11 UNF alerted faculty and students of a potential gunman on campus. UNFPD and JSO responded, surrounding the arena parking garage and clearing the area. Students and staff were told to hunker down and people were told to stay away from the area.

Well, some people.

I pulled on campus around 6:30 p.m. or so the same evening to find the swath of police covering the arena. I had brought someone who had never been to campus with me and assured them everything was fine and this was out of the ordinary.

I was very sure that our alert system, which had bothered me in the middle of my work day the previous Friday, would have let me know that something was going down. As we boarded the shuttle to head closer to the library there was an all-call on the radio that told the shuttles to stay in place.

Something was up.

Gradually I started getting more and more messages from friends and family alike to figure out if I was ok. I had been told people were being turned away from the library. I was told people were being locked away in Chick-fil-a. I was told I need to get to the library and hunker down because there is a “guy with a gun.”

After the shuttles were given the authorization to continue, I kept pressing on trying to carry out my usual business, nothing was really making sense as to how this was playing out. Clearly something had been going on (after all I had never seen the Starbucks darkened) but it seemed like no one was really responding like we should when a potential gunman was supposedly the case.

The training I have been through time and time again has always been “Run, Hide, Fight.” I knew this training like the back of my hand and yet it didn’t register that it was time to implement it. It wasn’t until 7:00 p.m. that I was alerted to the potential threat on campus.

But I pulled up to red and blue lights flashing, so what took so long?

Hopefully the University provides us some answers as to what went wrong, but needless to say the system failed us yesterday. Where it comes to active gunmen, there is very little we can do to properly protect ourselves against them. These kinds of people often are erratic and are out to kill indiscriminately.

The strategy to protect persons against them is to get people away as fast as possible to hopefully reduce the amount of potential victims, if you cannot get away you need to hide and barricade yourself as best you can, and should someone find themselves in the presence they are supposed to do everything they can to disarm and subdue the gunman.

How are we supposed to put ourselves into this kind of a mindset if we don’t know something is going on? Students are not all watching First Coast News and our twitter timelines are frequently filled with memes. We have gotten the test call from the emergency alert system, we have gotten the text messages; in both of these cases I have witnessed all of my friends get them at the same time.

This was an unacceptable failure of the emergency alert system.

Emergency alert systems are one of those things where you hope you never have to use it, but must be confident that should you have to that it will work. We cannot err on the side of doubt where it concerns these kinds of systems. It is imperative to the health and wellness of students and staff alike to know that if something is happening that we will get the alert.


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