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N.C. State's 'WolfAlert' System to Take Its First Test

Posted February 18, 2008

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— In the event of an emergency on North Carolina State University’s campus, officials would send out text messages to faculty, students and staff.

Getting people to sign up to receive the “WolfAlert” messages is another issue.

Of the 40,000 faculty, students and staff at N.C. State, only 10,000 have registered their phone numbers, despite campus-wide advertising. For those who have signed-up, school officials plan to test the system this week.

N.C. State isn't the only campus trying to get this type of system off the ground. On North Carolina's 110 public and private college campuses, new safety measures have quickly become the priority.

“Our challenges are population and geography. We're the largest in terms of students and area," said David Rainer, N.C. State's associate vice chancellor for environmental health and safety.

Last year, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper formed a task force to look at crisis communication plans at colleges and universities. The task now is to make sure those plans work.

“It’s important for us to be ready. We owe it to our parents, the faculty, and we owe it to the students to be ready,” he said.

Uneasy after the deaths of students at Northern Illinois University last week, student Clayton Beard said he plans to sign up.

"It's on my priority list," he said. "On an open campus, there's a lot to worry about sometimes."

Even when all upgrades are complete, N.C. State intends to use its homepage as the primary means of communicating emergency information. According to its Web site, "A text message will allow enough characters to indicate the existence of an emergency and direct recipients to the home page for more information."

In addition to text messaging and the audible alerts, N.C. State offers e-mail blasts, a campus hotline and a network of building liaisons to quickly spread with word in case of an emergency.

Other campuses in the area also have new security measures:

  • Peace College has a text message alert system and will host State Capitol Police for an upcoming drill.
  • Duke University is in the process of getting text messaging and sirens. The university has a new emergency Web site and a back-up Web server hosted by Stanford University in the event of an outage on campus.
  • At Wake Technical Community College, two text message systems are in place – one developed by Wake Tech, the other with a company called Lynx System. There are 100 security cameras across the campus with more to come. Officials also have rewritten emergency response booklets and established an emergency threat assessment team in the months since Virginia Tech. They're practicing lockdown and fire drills.
  • Three campuses in the University of North Carolina system – in Chapel Hill, Charlotte and Wilmington – have sirens or other audible alert systems. A number of other campuses are pricing siren systems. Fourteen UNC campuses have also implemented the PIER system used by N.C. State.
  • University of North Carolina at Greensboro recently held a well-publicized "on-campus shooter drill" with the full involvement and cooperation of local law enforcement agencies.
  • East Carolina University recently hosted a statewide conference on campus safety that drew participants from all UNC campuses.
17 Comments

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  • One flew over Randy_s nest Feb 19, 2008

    "Shoot out? Settling an argument with guns? Are you kidding me?"

    Yeah, like that has never happened...
    Seriously, what universe do you live in?

    Basically every week you can read about someone being upset about something and instead of punching the other guy in the face, he pulls a gun.
    But I guess that never happens in your perfect little NRA-run world?

  • One flew over Randy_s nest Feb 19, 2008

    "A concealed weapon is only to be drawn if one's life or the life of another is in immediate danger. And once drawn, you use it immediately. You use it to kill."

    You think a panicking college student can hit the intended target without any risk of hitting innocents nearby?
    Too bad your thinking is contradicted by something called REALITY. Even highly trained police officers and military hit innocents by mistake, but you think that a civilian with a few hours of training is a perfect marksman in a stressful situation?
    What an ideal dreamworld you must live in.

    "Do you have the first clue of even how to use a gun?"
    Ten years in the air force with plenty of training. Thank you for asking. What's your training? What makes you an expert marksman?

    "I let you worry about your own safety and I'll take care of mine."
    My safety can be helped by the descibed alert system, but my safety is threatened when your "safety" measures risks killing more innocents than the original attacker.

  • Steve Crisp Feb 19, 2008

    Shoot out? Settling an argument with guns? Are you kidding me? Do you have the first clue of even how to use a gun?

    A concealed weapon is only to be drawn if one's life or the life of another is in immediate danger. And once drawn, you use it immediately. You do not use a gun to intimidate. You use it to kill. You never use it to threaten - -ever. You use it to stop a maniac. By the way, you have some half million police officers in this country fully armed and we don't have the wild west breaking out all the time.

    Further and regarding your inanities about warning time...

    So what if VT had notified students. What would they have told them? The only thing they had was that an apparent domestic argument got out of hand and someone was shot and killed. They had no idea of who the shooter was so no description was even possible.

    But you just keep thinking the way you do. I let you worry about your own safety and I'll take care of mine.

  • One flew over Randy_s nest Feb 19, 2008

    "Notification that someone is shooting is far more time sensitive than a tornado warning. Tornados generally announce themselves eight to 20 minutes prior to touchdown, and the conditions which spawn tornados can be predicted sometimes days in advance. A shooter gives no warning at all and the event is often over before police are even called and alarms are triggered"

    In the case of the VT shootings, two hours passed between the first shootings at West Ambler Johnston and the Norris Hall shootings. Plenty of time to have everyone warned through a text message system.

  • One flew over Randy_s nest Feb 19, 2008

    "Jacc said it best -- the defense against a crazed killer is to have enough people armed to stop him."

    So instead you'll have an old western-style shootout where a large number of victims are caught in the crossfire.
    The "if-everyone-is-armed-nothing-bad-will-happen" crowd seems to forget that in countries where gun control is stricter, you rarely see the type of shootings that happened at VT and NIU.
    If stricter gun control meant an increased risk of crime, there would be hundreds of armed bank robberies in countries like Sweden and Norway every day.
    Or could it be that today's Americans would rather shoot someone instead of arguing with someone when they get angry? It seems to me that having everyone armed would be a very bad idea. Just imagine a traffic incident where you'd have a shootout because someone's Lexus got a scratch. Yes, let's all go back to the wild west...

  • Steve Crisp Feb 19, 2008

    To e94de:

    Jacc said it best -- the defense against a crazed killer is to have enough people armed to stop him.

    To kaykay:

    Notification that someone is shooting is far more time sensitive than a tornado warning. Tornados generally announce themselves eight to 20 minutes prior to touchdown, and the conditions which spawn tornados can be predicted sometimes days in advance. A shooter gives no warning at all and the event is often over before police are even called and alarms are triggered.

    To SingleLensReflex:

    Short of completely locking down the campus at VPI, nothing could be done to prevent the second shooting. Remember, police presumed that it was a domestic argument in the first killing and the second one was almost two hours later. Sending out text messages does not lock down campuses and place officers at every entrance to every building.

    All they do is make liberals feel good that something was done even if it was completely ineffectual.

  • SingleLensReflex.SLR Feb 18, 2008

    re: "makes the liberals more comfortable" comment:

    actually in the case of VPI if the alert had gone out earlier the second rampage MAY have been averted. Knee jerk conservatives are so amusing.

  • l-rae17 Feb 18, 2008

    jaac - you obviously know nothing about law enforcement. With a family member as a former policeman who is now on the narc team and is highly sought for work by the FBI, I completely disagree with your statement. He puts his life on the line to save others, and if need be for him to use his gun to save SOMEONE ELSE, then so be it.

  • jacc1001 Feb 18, 2008

    It should be obvious to any intelligent person that gun prohibitions, victim disarmament zones, and cell phone warnings will not protect anybody.

    The simple fact is that the only effective response to an armed killer is with a gun.

    It is predictable that mass killers target victim disarmament zones where they can expect maximum time to commit their carnage before encountering armed force.

    And anybody that believes that the police can effectively and timely intervene in a shooting incident is delusional. The police carry guns to protect themselves. They are not there to protect you.

  • SMAPAEA Feb 18, 2008

    As far as texting costs are concerned...if you have a really big beef about it, complain to your cell phone provider. They are the ones that don't think it's important enough to provide the service for free. The cell phone companies could have provided this service to NC State or any other university free of charge, but they did not. They wanted to charge for it, and ultimately the service used does cost the university. The communication system will only be used for tests and emergencies...no spam. Is it more important to lose a dollar in the long haul, or lose a life?

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