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Campus Safety alerts cause concerns

Students show divided feelings towards Biola alert systems.  |  Christian Leonard/THE CHIMES

 

Sunday evening on Oct. 29 at approximately 7 p.m. a bloodied 60-year-old white male stumbled onto campus. Students received emails and text messages from Campus Safety warning them of an “armed suspect” wandering through the school. With last year’s false alarm incident, students were left wondering, was this real?

Varying reactions

Sophomore environmental science major Alexis Garcia was one of the few students who spoke to this man.

“I noticed right away he looked homeless. He had shaggy long hair and was wearing a beanie. I also noticed his hands were bleeding all over the front of my room,” Garcia said. “He saw me and asked if he could come in and wash his hands.”

With Garcia’s calm demeanor, she was able to get the man to leave and notify Campus Safety.

Since Garcia witnessed this incident unfold, she was not surprised when the alerts went out to students. However, she spoke with some of her friends about receiving these warning messages.

“My roommate was at an [event] on campus and they were in the middle of the meeting when they got the notification,” Garcia said. “She said half the people took the extreme and tried to block the door. The other half were messing around making jokes about it and not being serious.”

Another witness included sophomore business major Alaina Gularian who saw this man as he walked through the Stewart Hall lobby.

“[My friends and I] were in the lobby and he actually walked in and looked around and left out the same door,” Gularian said.

Soon after Campus Safety came and arrested the man, her fellow students started receiving the alerts, according to Gularian. She noticed reactions varied from apathy to confusion.

“One of my friends said she stayed in her car because she didn’t know what to do, but another said she didn’t care because of the other mistaken active shooter incident, so she didn’t believe it was happening,” Gularian said.

Previous false alarm

In an incident last year, Campus Safety sent out an alert to all Biola students warning them of an active shooter in the lower level of the library. Students and professors panicked, specifically those in the library. Campus Safety declared a mistake on the campus safety alert system, leading to students finding it harder to take these alerts seriously. However, the alert system has since worked correctly.

“People went into a panic, contacting friends and parents because it was such a big deal, then it turned out to be completely false,” Gularian said.  “After that I think people started not believing the alerts that started coming in.”

Garcia described the reaction of some of her friends over the severity of the notification.

“I have some friends in Blackstone and when they got the notification they were like semi freaking out [because they] got the notification it was an active shooter and were thinking on that level,” Garcia said.

Better to prepare

Garcia believes campus security enhanced the threat level in order to increase safety among students.

“Biola took the extreme to let people know because they weren’t sure if there was anyone else or how big of a threat he was,” Garcia said. “They did that to make sure students were staying inside... They didn’t have all the details, so they didn’t want to undermine it and have students freak out or encounter something they weren’t prepared for.”

While this may be effective the first few times, students start to question the authenticity of the alerts. For example, false fire alarms are a regular occurrence in Blackstone Hall. The likelihood of every student reacting appropriately decreases with every false alarm. Gularian discussed her concerns with accountability in these situations.

“You aren’t accounted for and no one really knows what’s happening,” Gularian said.  “I was really bummed because I came from a school where everyone gets tallied and everyone knows where each other are and I felt pretty safe. But here, you just walk outside, and you can just leave campus, and no one really knows where each other are, so it was kind of annoying.”

Gularian praised Campus Safety for their care for students and in their efficient reactions to emergencies as they arrived within five minutes of their call and had the situation under control immediately.

Still, whether the dangerous situation is real or not, the fear leaves scars on students receiving these warnings.

“Even though he got caught, a lot of people were still worried,” Gularian said. “One of the guy floors on Stewart offered to walk people to class, and a lot of the girls decided not to go to Singspo even though they knew he got caught.”

STATEMENT FROM CAMPUS SAFETY: 

"The emergency notifications sent by Campus Safety are never intended to cause undue concern, but rather to make students and staff aware of the situation so they can keep themselves safe. For this reason emergency notifications are kept simple and limited to just the necessary information."

 

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