The new emergency message system will eventually send messages to students through text messages, email and social media. The university will register students for the alerts using data they already have, so right away, it will only be phone and email alerts. It is being implemented in response to a campus arrest that happened this week last year, said UNB Security Director Bruce Rogerson.
On Sept. 20, 2013, a suspicious individual was spotted on STU’s campus talking about having a gun. Soon after, six Fredericton police cars covered STU’s lower and upper courtyard, people were in lockdown in classrooms and offices and a man was arrested. Although the man was later released with no charges, the incident got the STU community talking about safety on campus.
Rogerson said a debrief after the incident with the city police showed that the individual who first noticed a suspicious person on campus should have called 911 right away.
“The message went from he may have a weapon, to that he had a weapon. That was by a third party and as the rumour goes around the circle, the truth gets hidden,” he said. “So naturally the police showed up in full force. It was the right reaction to the information that they received, but it was misinformation.”
Rogerson said there was also no way to communicate with students and faculty on campus during the incident.
“A lot of people were in lockdown and they didn’t come out for quite a while because there is no mass notification system to say that they can come out.”
St. Thomas University communications, UNB communications and UNB Security will all have capabilities to send out a notification.
Jeffrey Carleton, spokesperson for STU, is involved with the notification system. He said social media has become a big part of communicating with university students.
“We needed to shorten the time lag in communicating with the community. We realized that social media, Twitter particularly, has become a go-to medium for young people in communicating,” he said. “And so we have to make sure our external communications approach to operations takes that into account.”
Carleton said St. Thomas University in particular will also look into improving their lockdown protocol. Later this month, Workers Health and Safety Centre of Ontario will provide a lockdown training session to STU’s occupational safety committee and crisis management team.
“This will provide us with a basis of providing a campus lockdown procedure and see how we want to fine tune it and adapt it for the most effective use at St. Thomas,” he said.
Rogerson said more security cameras will also be added to the universities buildings for more protection. He said they will be put in public spaces, not private places, on UNB and St. Thomas University buildings.
“The push for the right to know is really coming from the students,” said Rogerson. “Mass notification will help protect our students.”
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