August 28, 2007

Cornell to Install Improvements to Response System

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Cornell has announced a new method for reaching students in the event of a campus-wide emergency by having students register with a service called “Who I Am,” a system that allows the University to compile emergency contact information for each student. Cornell will use the information to contact students as quickly as possible through means of communication like text messaging.
As the April 16 Virginia Tech. massacre that left 33 students dead has increased national discourse concerning safety at college campuses, Cornell’s team of officials dedicated to emergency services feel that such a system can be used in circumstances including violent crimes, major health scares and extreme weather events that could threaten student safety.
According to Cornell officials, the University has had such services in place since the 1990s. Additionally, the Cornell University Police Department has conducted regular training sessions focused preparing its officers for situations including violent gunmen on campus. Curtis Ostrander, associate vice president of risk management and public safety and chief of CUPD, told the Cornell Press Office that the CUPD has been focusing on communication designed to inform the campus population of a dangerous situation as quickly as possible.
Part of the new communication methods includes four sirens that will be installed throughout campus. Currently, the University is examining ways to make the sirens aesthetically pleasing.
Students are able to log on to “Who I Am” to update their information. Each Cornell student has an account.
In an email sent to students on Aug. 1, President David Skorton stated, “Protecting the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff is a top priority for us at Cornell. In the wake of the tragedy at Virginia Tech and as part of our ongoing commitment to members of the campus community, we carried out a review of our emergency preparedness procedures last spring.”
In addition to that review, a panel organized by students took place last April in which students voiced their concerns about Cornell’s preparedness for an emergency on the scale of the Virginia Tech tragedy. According to Cornell officials, CUPD handles 1,500 minor emergencies a year.
Students seem open to the idea of receiving text messages in the event of an emergency.
“It’s a really good idea — when there’s a real emergency, people should be contacted as fast as possible. I think that using a cell phone is the most efficient way to do so,” said Robin Koinet ’08.
Julie Cantor ’09 agreed.
“I’m more likely to check my cell phone than I am my email, so I think the University is making a smart decision in using text messages to connect with students,” she said.
Not all students, however, felt that the University should require students to supply their cell phone numbers.
“Students shouldn’t have to give their numbers if they don’t want to, but it’s a great option,” said Bridgette Rivers ’09.