Campus Safety Evacuation Mistake Explained

Grace Wielebinski PO ’14 woke up early on Monday March 28 to her sponsor repeatedly knocking on her door, warning her of an emergency alert sent out by Campus Safety. The message was asking all students to evacuate at least a mile south of campus. Wielebinksi jumped out of bed and quickly did as the alert instructed.

The emergency message, accidentally sent to every student at the 5Cs, was a result of a mistake made during what was supposed to be a drill done during Campus Safety's test mode. During the exercise, the on-duty Campus Safety Sergeant did not activate the fail-safe feature in the system which prevents messages from being sent,Director of Campus Safety Shahram Ariane explained in an e-mail message to TSL.

Indeed, when Wielebinski returned to her room, she found the following message from Campus Safety in her inbox: “This morning during one of our routine emergency exercises we inadvertently sent an evacuation notice.”

“I did act on the emergency message,” Wielebinski said. “I actually left the building and made it to Wig Beach before we were told it was not a real evacuation.”

After the message was sent out, Campus Safety attempted to act quickly in order to reduce the number of faculty and students inconvenienced by the alert.

“As soon as the message went out we took immediate steps to cancel the notification and limit the number of contacts made,” Ariane wrote. “We then were able to send out a pre-established “All Clear” message just over one minute from the initial notification.”

Pomona Vice President and Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum explained that in the past few years Pomona and the other campuses have been allowing Campus Safety more authority to send out emergency messages across all five campuses in order to make for a quicker response in the event of an emergency.

Though the emergency alert did cause some students to evacuate their beds at an early hour, Feldblum expressed her hope that 5C students will maintain their trust in Campus Safety because of increased efforts to prevent a repeat of the situation.

“Immediately after [the emergency alert], they attempted to put some additional safeguards in place,” she said. “I hope students will still pay attention.”

Ariane echoed Feldblum's assurance in the new measures' abilities to stop another accidental emergency alert.

“Campus safety has implemented additional internal controls to further reduce ability for unintended use of the system. These measures were developed and are being followed as of last week,” he wrote.

However, after the false emergency, some students may have lost confidence in the authority of Campus Safety.

After her southward journey, Wielebinski says she will be a little more dubious in reading other alerts from Campus Safety.

“Just because this event was sort of turned into a joke, it makes me take the evacuation notifications a little less seriously, unfortunately,” she said.

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