“Immediately evacuate the campus to the SOUTH and get at least 1 mile away. This is NOT a drill!” Students awoke Monday to text messages, phone calls and emails urging them to do just this, and many students did. Eliza Silverman, Scripps ‘14, reports, “my mom called me sobbing and yelling to run south.” But a few minutes later, they received another message saying, “ALL CLEAR – The emergency has ended and it is now safe to resume prior activities.”
During the intervening few minutes students worried about what kind of an emergency would require such action. A Virginia Tech-style active shooter? “I thought it was a bomb threat, but an email would be an understatement if that were the case.” said Lauren Prince, Scripps ‘14.
Dean Manship, Campus Safety’s Emergency Preparedness Program Manager, explained what happened. “During a routine exercise a safety feature in the system which prevents messages from being sent during training was not activated,” he said. “After the message was inadvertently sent we immediately took steps to cancel the notification and reduce the number of individuals who received the message.”
“[Campus Safety] conduct[s] regular trainings and exercises using the emergency notification system so that there is always (24/7/365) someone on duty that can quickly respond, and when necessary provide critical safety information to The Claremont Colleges community”, Manship said. “The purpose of the exercise is to maintain a necessary level of proficiency on emergency notification system operations.”
After the mishap, students speculated to the circumstances under which they would be asked to evacuate one mile south of campus. On Facebook, one CMC student guessed that the cause was a hazardous spill at Harvey Mudd. Brendan Schneiderman PO ‘14, like Prince, said, “I figured it was a bomb scare.”
Manship refused to give examples of those circumstances, only saying, “There are numerous situations that may require the relocation of our community for safety purposes.”
Manship responded to a question about a potential loss in Campus Safety’s credibility from the botched drill, saying “The effectiveness of emergency communications is always a concern.” He added, “I would like to stress to students, faculty, and staff that all emergency notifications, including drills should be taken seriously.”
Sonia Aggarwal, CMC ‘12, chose not to evacuate. Campus Safety, she said, “sends out so much stuff that you don’t know if it’s serious or not. Tell us what [the emergency] is, so we know!”
The Port Side’s Anna Pickrell contributed additional reporting.