Campus Safety Revamps e2Campus

This fall, Campus Safety will expand its emergency contact capabilities in an effort to improve Colgate’s response plan in the event of a campus crisis.

On September 17, students received an e-mail strongly advising them to register with the Emergency Contact System, which has been recently implemented in conjunction with the pre-existing e2Campus system. This program sends text messages to wireless phones regarding serious campus threats including violent crimes, severe weather threats, building evacuations and hazardous materials incidents.

“I can’t tell you exactly how many students are signed up right now,” Director of Campus Safety Bill Ferguson said. “But we do have approximately 1,100 people on campus registered. It is so important that we get everybody using this system in order to have as many lines of communication open as possible.”

Shortly after the e2Campus emergency notification system was introduced to Colgate in Fall 2007, students received a text message alert on December 9 in the early morning hours warning them of a larceny attempt in an unlocked Russell House room. Senior Elena Dowling recalls receiving the message.

“I remember finding out that the burglary had happened a few hours before getting the text,” Dowling said. “I think a lot of us felt the response from the administration wasn’t fast enough.”

One of the main concerns raised by members within the administration regarding the e2Campus system is that not enough of the Colgate community is registered to receive these messages. This is one of the reasons why, when two muggings occurred on campus early in Spring 2009, different means of communication were used to alert the campus.

“The Campus Alert e-mail system, the dissemination of flyers throughout residences and verbal notifications by on-call staff and emergency personnel were all deemed to be more appropriate,” Vice President and Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson told The Colgate Maroon-News at the time.

Weighing in on the response to the muggings, Ferguson said, “The suspect apparently had been placed in custody a short time later. It was a situation where we felt it wasn’t crucial to activate the notification system.”

To address these questions being raised about the effectiveness of the e2Campus system, Ferguson is planning a series of tests to be carried out via the new Emergency Contact System within the semester.

“It’s part of a process I’m working on as we speak,” Ferguson said. “I suspect at a minimum we would be testing it at least once a semester, and I would try to set up a regular schedule of when that will be. We’ll be notifying the campus ahead of time.”

In addition to the e2Campus system, Colgate has purchased InformaCast, a telephone application that will allow administrators to simultaneously send pre-recorded alerts to all landline phones on campus. Ferguson added that speakers will be installed throughout campus to allow the same recordings to be projected outdoors.

“The speaker system has been approved,” Ferguson said. “The project is very much in progress, and we hope to begin installation soon.”

Ferguson noted that while having these various systems does create redundancy for Campus Safety, not everybody receives information in the same way. This new system will allow them to reach more people in a more efficient way.

“The priority is encouraging the students to register their cell phones with e2Campus,” Ferguson said. “It only takes a few minutes, and it will help us create a safer environment on campus.”