Students must register for emergency alerts

Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: Students must register for emergency alerts – Los Angeles Loyolan.

Registration for LMU’s Alert System (LMU Alert) will now be required for all students enrolled at the University in the Fall 2012 semester, according to a letter sent out Tuesday morning by Chief of Public Safety Hampton Cantrell.

The recently mandated system, which was first discussed late in the 2010-11 school year, will require students to sign up before registering for classes in the Fall 2012 semester. According to the message students received, the compulsory registration is designed “to promote safety and security.”

LMU Alert, according to Cantrell’s email, “is a system that allows the University to send important information and instructions during a campus or area-wide incident or emergency.” A system like LMU Alert for sending messages (through texts and emails) to students in case of emergency is required of all universities due to the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act), which was passed in 1989.

Officials behind the change consider the greater reach of the system to be imperative. “We believe students being aware of an immediate crisis to campus is helpful to them in order to protect themselves and to keep them out of harm’s way,” said Cantrell in an interview with the Loyolan. “We have about 50 percent that are signed up now. … Right now, only half are getting the message, and that’s problematic.”

According to Senior Vice President of Administration Lynne Scarboro, the new obligatory system has been part of the plan for some time.

“We’ve been talking about it for a while,” Scarboro said. “I think that we’ve always intended it to be mandatory. It was just about thinking through how we wanted to do it.”

“This is a process that has involved people from across the University … to make sure that we are taking into account everybody’s interests in terms of the departments and the students,” said Director of Emergency Management Devra Schwartz.

“I think it’s a good idea,” said sophomore Spanish and sociology double major Bianca Villasenor of the change. “Their number-one concern should be our safety, and I feel this system makes it easier for us to keep in contact with them and can only help us know what’s happening on campus.”

Of the decision to link the LMU Alert sign-up to class registration, Scarboro said, “There are a number of things that fall into the category of being a student here and what we’re going to require of you. … It’s our responsibility to warn you. We have to require it.” Linking the LMU Alert sign-up to class registration keeps students from registering for their classes until they sign up.

“[The hold] is really our most effective way to make sure every single student registers for LMU Alert,” Schwartz said.

LMU Alert experienced some technical difficulties in March of last year when a message indicating that an armed gunman had appeared on campus, as reported in the March 22, 2011 Loyolan article “Alert system prompts concern” by then-News Editor Laura Riparbelli. With compulsory registration about to become a reality, Scarboro stressed that the system for sending emergency messages should be much more reliable now.

“Public Safety really doubled down on their training to make sure anyone that touches that system is trained. They’ve got to have two eyes on the message if it’s sent out,” Scarboro said. “We’ve got to be able to rely on it, and we’ve got to know how to use it.”

Any technical glitches, though they may be “annoying,” as described by Scarboro, shouldn’t hamper the ultimate goal of LMU Alert – that is, students’ safety.

“In an emergency, no one is likely to save you. The biggest help you can be is to yourself, but you have to have information to save yourself,” Scarboro said. “Your action in an emergency, your best chance of surviving, is what you do. That’s what the emergency system does: It puts a tool in your hands.”

– Additional Reporting by Laura Riparbelli