Flashing orange lights and alarms interrupted Columbia’s morning classes on Feb. 18. Professors were notified prior to this drill and were asked to attend training on the correct procedures. However, faculty and staff who didn’t attend training and unaware students were unable to identify the alarm and take the correct precautions.
Students scrambled down the stairs and filed out of campus buildings, while many were confused about the situation. The sound of the alarm was faint compared to the usual blaring fire alarm, and many people didn’t realize it was a test of the AlertWave system.
Alarms are a necessity; it’s important for everyone to be familiar with the fire, carbon dioxide and lockdown procedures. Students need to be fully aware of the procedures so they can act accordingly without relying on a faculty member.
Lockdown drills have become increasingly necessary, considering school shootings are becoming more prevalent across the country.
This is especially important on an urban campus like Columbia’s where many people who are not students can enter a building during regular hours without being questioned by security.
The college upgraded the alarm system after the first Northern Illinois University shooting on Feb. 14, 2008. However, there are still many who don’t know how the new network works. In order to have this million-dollar system work effectively, everyone needs to be notified of the proper procedures in the event of a drill or an actual incident.
The new system includes flashing lights, speaker systems in classrooms and scrolling marquees near elevators that give instructions. These marquees are somewhat ineffective because students cannot leave classrooms during a lockdown to receive instructions from the monitors. It only assists students who are in the hallway at the time of the alarm.
An e-mail should be sent to everyone at the college—not just faculty—outlining a specific course of action for each kind of drill. Additionally, a sound description of each alarm should be included in the e-mail to ensure identification of the noises.
Everyone needs notification to prevent being vulnerable during a real threat. Columbia students should not settle for a sub-par system that lacks logistical information and could put them in danger of becoming victims of another campus massacre.