The Cavalier Daily
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Campus safety is a continuous effort

A decade after Virginia Tech shooting, colleges must keep finding ways to improve emergency preparedness

Yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of the Virginia Tech mass shooting. The tragic event, which claimed the lives of 32 people, was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history at the time. A decade later, victims and their families are still healing and actively working to prevent future mass shootings. In this time of reflection and remembrance, our University community should discuss emergency preparedness and campus security.

At the time of the shooting, Virginia Tech’s campus security lacked a quick and efficient way of alerting students and the entire campus about the threat of an active shooter. Since the shooting, colleges around the country have implemented advanced alert systems which offer multiple ways to notify their communities of potential threats. While this initiative certainly has addressed a significant issue with the way schools respond to emergencies, colleges must realize improving campus safety is a continuous effort.

One of the most challenging safety issues our University and other colleges face today is how social media allows people to instantly access information about an ongoing emergency — whether it’s accurate or not. In any emergency, well-intentioned individuals who may not have all the facts can misrepresent the situation on social media before administration officials have the chance to provide accurate information. Accessing inaccurate information about a potential threat through social media presents significant risks to students. With the wrong information, students could suddenly find themselves in dangerous situations instead of avoiding them.

In spite of the University’s strong emergency alert system, students and faculty may not be fully aware of what to do in emergency situations. Evacuation plans available from the Office of Safety and Emergency Preparedness include minimal instructions, and more in-depth resources are not widely distributed to students upon their arrival to Grounds. Moreover, participation in disaster response drills is generally optional for students. To ensure students are aware of proper emergency response procedures, the University could include emergency preparedness training in the health and safety modules all new students already must complete.

The Virginia Tech community has endured unimaginably difficult times throughout the past decade. During these times, our University community has offered — and will continue to offer — a hand of unconditional support and warm reassurance to Virginia Tech. Together, our communities will always remember and honor the victims of this tragedy. Looking to the future, the University must continue to improve its emergency preparedness practices, and as students we must strive to educate ourselves about emergency procedures.