Numerous Students Miss BraveAlert
By Jonathan Bym, Editor
The university tested its BraveAlert system through email, text message and the outdoor emergency alert towers on Sept. 8 at 12 p.m. But, for many, the alert went unnoticed because of a failure to hear it, and some had no clue about the system or the test that was running.
“I had no clue they were testing anything, and I heard absolutely nothing,” said Kayla Oxendine, who was working inside the Mary Livermore Library while the 24-second alarm was sounding off around campus.
Oxendine was not the only one who failed to hear the alert or was unaware of the test. Several people on the southeast corner of campus failed to hear the siren, and if they did it was so faint it was hard to make out what the siren was meant for.
“You could hear it was on, but the words were muffled,” sophomore Charles Tyner said about what he heard as he was just outside of Old Main facing the Quad.
Along with the siren, the BraveAlert test included a text message and phone calls sent out to everyone who has their phone numbers registered through the BraveAlert text message system, the emergency phones and also through emails.
“Each institution of higher education has to have a system to alert their community about emergencies,” Associate Vice Chancellor for Campus Safety and Emergency Operations Travis Bryant said.
The BraveAlert outdoor alert devices are two 50-foot towers, one located behind Pine and Oak residence halls near lot 13, while the other is located on the north end of campus between the LRA softball field and Sampson. These two towers will activate for “a tornado warning or sighting in Robeson County, a major hazardous materials spill on or near the main campus, or an active shooter on campus,” according to the university website.
These two towers are meant to serve the entire campus in case of emergency by emitting tones that the website says are “detectable one mile from the tower; voice recognition can be heard one half mile depending upon obstacles or landscapes.”
The distance from the nearest tower to the quad area on campus, where most people said they could not hear the siren, is just a little over a fifth of a mile away from the siren located near Pine Hall.
According to the statement made on the website, this area of campus is well within the range of the sirens, but there are several barriers blocking the sound from getting to this far corner of campus.
Pine Hall, Oak Hall, North Hall, the School of Business and the School of Education along with trees and other features on campus stand between the tower and many buildings on campus that are high traffic during the day, such as Old Main, Oxendine, Moore Hall, Locklear Hall, Mary Livermore Library, D.F. Lowry, Jacobs and Wellons.
From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on any Monday, Wednesday or Friday there are nearly 1,300 students enrolled in classes in Oxendine and Old Main, according to Banner Self Service, while approximately 800 have classes during that same time period on Tuesday or Thursday.
What makes Oxendine different from other buildings on the southeast corner of campus is it has an intercom system that went off in the hallways during the BraveAlert test.
The University Center and the Jones Center also have been equipped with internal sirens to help because of high traffic, and it is hard to hear the siren from the inside.
“We have put some internal sirens in a couple of our buildings and residence halls,” Bryant said.
Some of the older buildings on campus are without the internal sirens.
“As funding becomes available,” Bryant said about the possibility for getting internal sirens put in all the buildings.
Bryant also explained that some of the emergency phone boxes have been equipped to make the siren noise to cover “dead pockets.”
These dead pockets are mainly in the southeast corner of campus and along parts of Prospect Road.
Some of the older buildings on campus, like Old Main, have no intercom system and the faculty and staff in the building have realized it’s hard to hear the BraveAlert tests in the past.
“Normally you can’t hear it,” a staff member in Old Main said. The worker also compared the sound in their office to a passing ambulance.
If you sit in a classroom in Old Main, the noise is barely coherent and it requires a close seat to the window facing the Quad and a quiet classroom to hear it.
These ideal conditions usually don’t happen when a student is sitting in class listening to a professor’s lecture.
In the event of a major emergency on campus happening, a majority of the campus student body, faculty and staff being located in such a close area could be left in the dark.
During the test, 2,075 text messages were delivered and 2,327 phone calls were sent out. Some of those same phone numbers also received both texts and phone calls.
Both numbers mean that nearly 1/3 of the student and staff population on campus didn’t received any notification through their phone.
Even for students who might be in classes that have the text alerts, they might be left unaware of what kind of emergency might be going on.
The reason the amount of phone numbers registered is low, according to Bryant, is that people have become comfortable and see no need in putting their numbers in the registry, as well as some people might have had their numbers changed and don’t even see a reason to fix it.
“Getting your number registered is something you need to put on your checklist once you get a phone number,” he said. “You have to give us your information so we can give you our information.”
With cell phone apps becoming so popular today in regards to getting in touch with a college population, the university utilizes its social media to alert campus of closing or any emergencies that might be occurring.
As of right now, a cell phone app is something that the campus safety department is looking into that will help notify a great number of students.
Any students wanting to add their cell phone numbers to the BraveAlert registry can do so on the opening BraveWeb screen.
Map Illustration by Jonathan Bym