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Is Belmont’s text message alert a flawed system?

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To the editor:

I was writing to express concern over the events of Tuesday, Jan. 5. I know that you’re well aware of the devastation and loss of lives that was caused by the tornadoes and storms throughout the South. I’m also sure that many other parents, spouses and students are expressing the same concern as me. I simply wanted to talk specifics so that the university could make better decisions in the event of another emergency situation.

The university sent my wife an e-mail yesterday explaining the process of the university’s text message alert system, itemizing the different text messages and explaining the statistics of the messages receipts. These statistics and explanation do nothing to remedy the mistakes of the university. I believe that the text message system as the only means of alerting students is inherently flawed.

My wife was in a conference at the university that took place between 7 and 9 p.m. The storms hit Bellevue, our home, around 9:15 that night. That gave my wife roughly 15 minutes to return home after leaving the conference, driving directly into the storm.

I would like to note, that due to being in a conference, not only was my wife’s phone off, they were asked to turn off their phones. She was in a university building; therefore it should be the university’s responsibility to warn these individuals.

The university is extremely lucky that there wasn’t a situation such as what had occurred earlier at Union. There was plenty of warning for these storms, as they were tracked from 5 p.m. on throughout the Southeast. I understand that the university is asked sometimes to make tough decisions, but this is a situation where the university had plenty of time to act and simply didn’t.

At the same time of my wife’s conference, the Nashville Predators started their hockey game at 7:00 p.m.. The Sommet Center and Metro Police not only made the audience aware of the upcoming storms, but also forced these individuals to stay within the facility until after the storms had passed. I would expect the same, if not better response from a respected university. While my concerns are about the past, I hope that the university is able to take their mistakes and fix a flawed system. Individuals who are predisposed in activities on campus, individuals who do not have phones, or even those who have not signed up for an emergency text message system are placed at a distinct disadvantage in caring for their own well being. My wife, as well as the other Belmont students, should not have to rely on the emergency sirens as their primary means of being informed of such danger.

February 28, 2008

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