author Marlee Hirson, Wednesday February 17, 2016

An article published by Inside Higher Ed titled “Should I Stay or Should I Go” discusses the issue of college and university students not taking campus alerts seriously and failing to react quickly to them. The piece highlights the importance of both properly educating your campus and using emergency notifications to avoid user apathy.

Taking Emergency Alerts Seriously

Three years ago, the University of Mexico responded to a bomb threat on campus by sending out an emergency alert to students who were in the middle of morning classes. While most of the students and staff evacuated the building in question, two classrooms of students stayed put. They looked through the classroom door’s windows to see what the class across the hall was doing; as each class was basing its actions on the other, neither classroom vacated the building despite the fact they had been ordered to do so.

The bomb threat turned out to be a false alarm but both classes remained in the building before the threat was cleared. The incident revealed a complex issue; that some students and staff don’t take emergency threats seriously and don’t react quickly enough to them.

The article recounted that it was only after a real crisis that students, faculty and staff began to take emergency messages seriously. In a different example, students at the University of Central Florida mocked the emergency alerts sent out by the University. It was only until a student committed suicide on campus and was found with a backpack of bombs that made students take the University’s emergency alerts more seriously.

Student Perception

Student perception of the importance of emergency messages is obviously essential in ensuring that proper steps are being taken in the event of a crisis. This speaks to the importance of frequency and subject matter for sending out push notifications as is discussed in our blog post on this topic, “Push Notification Protocol and Best Practices”.

While our post discusses the frequency of messages sent to students, it’s also very important that the campus leadership demonstrates the proper safety procedures in an emergency such as the evacuation. Students will follow the example of the instructor or staff member more readily than another student; if the instructor tells students to leave the building, the students will do so.

The content of emergency alerts and the campus leadership can have a strong impact on how students react to notifications in crises. The implementation of technology and proper education about safety protocols will help campuses respond effectively to safety communications.

Why do you think some students chose to stay in the classroom after receiving the bomb threat alert? Would this be an issue on your campus? Comment below and tell us your experiences with user apathy and how you overcame them.