InformaCast warning system creates whirlwind of emotions

Carter Secor, Staff Reporter

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Campus is a home away from home for students. It’s also the place where some spend almost all of their time, whether studying in the library, meeting with professors, bowling at Warhawk Alley, relaxing in their dorm room, or just living their lives.

Since campus is home for so many students, we shouldn’t have to worry about being safe. With the late campus emergency website reaction to the tornado warning on Oct. 1, on top of events like the accidental triggering of the active shooter alarm and other events. The confidence in campus emergency notification and response is left wanting.

That isn’t to say that campus security and emergency services are bad at their job, or that campus is extremely dangerous in any way. But the fact that there have been false or late alarms from the emergency warning system is worrying.

The tornado warning on Oct. 1 is a prime example.  The national weather service issued a tornado warning for Jefferson County, the county containing the northern part of campus and also the part of campus with dorm halls at 9:30 p.m. There was also coverage of this on FOX 6 WITI. But while both the National Weather Service and news stations were covering the severe weather and reporting on it, the campus emergency notification system did not alert anyone to the tornado until 9:47 p.m. -almost 20 minutes from when the warning went into effect and after the tornado sirens in Whitewater had already activated and had stopped. This to me is extremely concerning because of the delayed reaction by the campus emergency services. If the F-0 tornado, which had touched down in Fort Atkinson that night, had actually touched down farther south and closer to campus, many students would’ve been in danger.

That’s not to say that students didn’t do anything when they heard the city sirens going off. I’ve heard from multiple people who live in the dorms talk about how almost everyone was going downstairs to the basements when they heard them. But I also heard that the only reason they did was because they saw everyone else going downstairs as well. If they had their dorm room door shut, they wouldn’t have seen anyone and might not have gone downstairs until the campus alarms sounded and instructed them to.

The tornado warning raises questions about the efficiency of the emergency notification service on campus. Questions like: Why didn’t campus alarms go off right away when the tornado warning was announced? Why wasn’t there at least a notification sent out to student emails and phone numbers letting people on campus know at the very least that a warning was in effect before the sirens sounded?

I can understand if campus emergency notification wasn’t sent out because the warning wasn’t in both Walworth and Jefferson County, but it was in the county that contained most if not all the dorms on campus, creating a dangerous situation for students living here.

I hope I’m not being too harsh. Its just worrying to watch TV about a tornado warning, to hear the sirens blare and then stop, only to then 20 minutes later, get a notification from the university of an event that was, at that point, old news.

  Carter Secor

    Staff Reporter