Local colleges send alerts to keep students safe

When an Emory & Henry student posted a death threat on smartphone app Yik Yak, college officials sent an email to the campus which currently enrolls around one-thousand students.

"We thought we had an obligation to the community to let them know that this was out there, and we were taking it seriously," Vice President for Student Life Pamela Gourley said.

The app allows people to post anonymously, but Gourley said it's still possible to track users down.

"Sometimes that anonymity gives them a sense of protection that really isn't there," Gourley added.

She said it's hard to keep up with all the new social media websites and smartphone apps.

"The problem with social media apps is this one is very popular today. The one that will be popular next week may not have been created yet," she said.

There are six residential colleges in our area. Each campus has an emergency plan, ready to activate in time of need. East Tennessee State University has almost 15-thousand students, but the procedure is much like Emory & Henry's.

"We do have committees in place that talk about the issues, not just when to notify, but ways we notify them," Emergency management director Andy Worley said.

Other colleges in the region said their plans include sending text or voice messages, emails, and an audible campus-wide alert. ETSU has even added an alert on their network computers.

"It's a message we send out through computers, a message will pop up on the screen, and the user has to acknowledge the message before it will go away," Worley said.

With so much information available on social media, many of the colleges rely on campus members to help in reporting dangers they see.

"If they see something, let us know what's going on, so we know when we can issue those threats," Worley added.

Gourley tells us the community is the college's best bet to keeping the campus safe.

"I think by using the community standard that we currently do with our people here on campus, I think that's our best operation of defense," Gourley said.

Worley tells us that type of preparation starts before an emergency actually happens.

"Part of it is not just alerting them, we're also working hard to train and prepare people for them," he said.

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