Public: Communication: Warning
Emergency Campus Alert Keychain system   (+1, -2)  [vote for, against]
At risk of being overly topical

In yesterday's Virginia Tech shooting incident, one major complaint is that the university did not make early-enough use of its emergency broadcast towers. I don't know the reason for it, or the defense of it. Other complaints have been that they did not send out an alert soon enough that a shooter was possibly still on campus - the administration waited about two hours before sending out their first email.

Part of the problem, according to administrators, is that they had no way to notify people who lived off-campus and were coming in, or who might not check their email. Additionally, they didn't really know the nature of the first shooting and whether the shooter was still around.

The second problem cannot be corrected, I guess, but the first can: Distribute to every student and faculty member a small keychain with a flashing light and a siren on it. Each would have a radio receiver in it that, on receipt of a particular signal, would cause it to blink and sound.

That alert would be a signal to lock doors and windows and check campus email for instructions.

It doesn't matter if everyone doesn't carry their keychain - if only one person in a classroom carries it, that's good enough. If only one person in a dorm carries it, that's enough - just pound on everyone else's, or tell the RA/prefect.

Transmitters could be located in between buildings or in each building to maximize coverage area. And if the signal goes out in regular bursts, those who arrive late would know as soon as they come into range that something has gone wrong.

For fast-moving emergencies, a button could be located in each classroom that notifies only the building in question (and nearby buildings, I guess, if they're in range) and sends an alert to campus security of "Something is wrong." Perhaps multiple buttons, one at the front and one at the back of a classroom. I know that at my college we had a button similar to that in the chemistry labs - "Notify police in the event of emergency" was posted over it. So why not tie that in to some sort of emergency alert system?
-- shapu, Apr 17 2007

Too specific.

What if the emergency is a fire and the correct action is to leave the buildings?

Or a toxic spill and the reaction is to turn off ventilation and close windows?

System should be able to distribute any sort of alert.
-- Galbinus_Caeli, Apr 17 2007

In the event of a fire, I would think that smoke detectors would go off.

That being said, I suppose a two-alarm system could be used (high-pitched for stay inside, lower for run outside), but any more and you run into the risk of making it too complicated to remember.
-- shapu, Apr 17 2007

You can't cover every contingency.
-- DrCurry, Apr 17 2007

True, but there has got to be a better way than depending on email that may not be read or speakers that aren't used to declare an emergency.
-- shapu, Apr 17 2007

How about just living someplace else?
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 17 2007

I tried Iceland for like five minutes. Turns out they lied.
-- shapu, Apr 18 2007

how about sending text messages to all students specifying the type of emergency. Even though not all students will have mobiles, word would travel pretty quickly.
-- xaviergisz, Apr 18 2007

We discussed this with our son's college recently (the fools put us in charge of a committee) (I forget which one, though). This was in the context of alerting students and faculty and evacuating the school in the event of terrorist attack or other emergency (they have had to evacuate several times due to extreme weather).

They had been taken aback to realize that their standard alert system, relying on students' room phones, would no longer work - few students even plug their room phones in these days. So they are installing a more sophisticated system that can call phone, cell phone, email and so on, and keep track of whether it has gotten through to a given student. And figuring out ways to make sure students register their cell phone numbers.
-- DrCurry, Apr 18 2007

random, halfbakery