The Daily Evergreen

Editorial board: Make emergency alert system mandatory

Everyone in WSU community should be notified when there are dangerous situations on campus

RYAN PUGH | Daily Evergreen File

RYAN PUGH | Daily Evergreen File

EDITORIAL BOARD

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The recent bomb threats at Stimson Hall brought to light a deficiency in the WSU emergency alert system, as some students were left unaware of the situation.
Granted, some students do not want to receive alerts. They are currently allowed to decline, and some choose that option. However, The Daily Evergreen believes all students, staff and faculty should be required to know when they are in potential danger.
Before the bomb threat, about 19,000 people subscribed to the alerts statewide. After the threat, the number increased to just over 20,000 out of almost 35,000 total students, staff and faculty. Nearly 19,000 of those are among the 21,000 students at the Pullman campus.
This may seem like a decent percentage, but it still means 2,000 students may not hear about an emergency until it’s over, as well as another 14,000 people in the WSU community overall.
Presumably, students may believe the alerts will merely be an irritation. Genuine emergency situations are rare, and alerts can cause undue worry. It seems fair, in many situations, that people should be allowed to manage their own safety.
But suppose you found yourself in the middle of a real emergency situation. As a broken pipe leaks gas into your room, or as an active shooter approaches your building, would you truly prefer not to know?
Mandatory safety precautions are nothing new. Seatbelts, a prime example, have saved many lives and hardly bother anyone. WSU emergency alerts cause no more trouble than seatbelts.
Here’s how they work:
Within three minutes of activation, the alert system is designed to warn students, staff and faculty about physical dangers, such as active shooters, gas leaks and bomb threats. The system works by sending text messages, emails and/or calls to subscribers.
Students are encouraged to sign-up for alerts at their orientations, but do not have to.
Additionally, if the system detects that a student has not signed up, the first time they try to log onto their MyWSU account they have to check a box confirming that they do not want to receive notifications.
Those who decide not to subscribe should consider that they may be risking more than their own safety.
If someone becomes trapped in a dangerous situation they did not know was happening, other people might be obligated to help, putting themselves at risk in the process. On the flip side, they could spread the message of a crisis if they knew about it. Greater awareness equals greater safety.
WSU administrators are currently discussing whether it would be feasible to make alert subscription mandatory.
Christina Sanders, director of the Office of Emergency Management, said she would like to reach as many people as possible when there is an emergency, but that making the system mandatory could be a violation of student rights.
“It would be nice if we had the ability to notify everyone that was students, faculty and staff if something was going on,” Sanders said.
If possible, we think this is the ideal situation. If not, we urge all members of the WSU community to subscribe to the alerts. The more people who receive them, the safer the campus as a whole will be — a small price to pay for the occasional minor distraction of a text.

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Editorial board: Make emergency alert system mandatory