The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Sunday September 25th

Alert Carolina failed

Students should be notified immediately of any credible threat on campus.

On Sunday police armed with shotguns were in the Pit and students were forced to evacuate buildings in the heart of campus" yet the emergency warning committee waited almost two hours to explain the threat.

The committee was established to inform the campus community through sirens or text messages of an ""imminent threat"" — an armed person on or near campus" a major chemical spill or hazard or a tornado.

A notice put on the Alert Carolina Web site Monday said the bomb threat did not call for activation of the sirens.

Fair enough.

But it should have called for immediate notification through text messages and updating the Alert Carolina Web site.

Nancy Davis committee member and associate vice chancellor for University relations said securing the area is the first step and campus communication is the next.

It's not clear why plans aren't in place for the two to happen simultaneously.

It's certainly not difficult to imagine a host of circumstances in which having knowledge of a threat would help students keep themselves out of harm's way.

Alerting students is tantamount to securing campus — that's why we have the alert system in the first place.

In the absence of official information Sunday rumors ran rampant across campus and the Internet. Some students said they heard gunshots. Others thought dorms were evacuated.

This confusion could have been avoided had a text message or e-mail been sent to students immediately.

Instead students relied on media sources. The Daily Tar Heel published a bomb threat breaking news story to the Web about an hour and a half before the Alert Carolina Web site.

Buildings were evacuated and the Pit was closed — the University clearly was not operating under normal conditions as the Web site claimed until 11 p.m.

The failure of Alert Carolina has encouraged other schools to test their own systems to ensure students would be quickly informed. University of Illinois administrators conducted a test for the Illini-Alert text service yesterday in response to UNC's problem.

If the University was unable to relay security information to students in an effective manner during a bomb threat case — in which no bomb materialized — how can we trust the administration to lead us through a major public safety crisis?

Clearly we can't.

If the University wants to earn back our trust it needs to explain explicitly what went wrong and how the problem will be corrected in the future.


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