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Sep. 2nd, 2008 @ 09:06 am mandatory emergency registration loophole
They've made listing emergency contact information for the stupid (and dangerous) "Amber Alert" style automatic wardialer emergency notification system through the disclosure of personal contact information "mandatory" to enroll, but one can leave all the fields blank and check a box at the bottom to enroll without filling in the form.
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dirkcjelli:
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From:dirkcjelli
Date:September 2nd, 2008 02:52 pm (UTC)
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It is not Amber Alert, nor does it share the same purpose. It wasn't my intent to impugn the Amber Alert system with a comparison to WPI's poorly conceived system. (I'd hoped the description would allow current students to readily identify what I was talking about.) The actual amber alert system isn't dangerous, but the WPI system is.

In my opinion, this WPI system (which is intended to be used in the event of a Virginia Tech style shooting) is dangerous because it will be used to actively promote 'lamb to the slaughter' passive behavior in the event of such an attack. WPI is of the opinion that my safety is best left to their experts. I am not.

They couldn't get people to sign up voluntarily (though they begged repeatedly, solicited ostensibly independent student organizations to lobby their members, etc), but have now attempted to make volunteering personal information mandatory (so WPI can send text messages, emails to non-wpi accounts, etc in the event of a VT-style emergency.)
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From:dirkcjelli
Date:September 2nd, 2008 03:20 pm (UTC)
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A pro-active citizenry.
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From:jeff_simpson
Date:September 2nd, 2008 04:53 pm (UTC)
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I'm still not seeing how this is dangerous?

When something Very Bad happens, they have no way to notify people quickly and effectively. Do you really think an email that says "Sniper in Alden" is going to be the best way to let people know?

If nothing else, that new plan will be a nice C.Y.A. WPI doesn't want to be held responsible for failing to notify their students of something like that. But it seems that students, for some reason, don't WANT to be notified. I'm sure you'd prefer to take your chances on safety, but how do you plan on being safe if you aren't even alerted of the situation?

It seems perfectly fine that they don't require you to fill in the fields, but it sounds like they DO require you to submit the form, effectively waiving your rights to whine about it later. WPI does not want to get sued by your parents because you didn't remember to sign up for the alert system and as a result got shot for standing around on the quad while snipers are firing on you.
From:dirkcjelli
Date:September 2nd, 2008 04:58 pm (UTC)
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In my book, what they got was a vote of no confidence. Moving towards a mandatory system does not fill me with confidence.

They're -just- covering their ass, rather than -actually- addressing the issue they are bragging about addressing.
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From:jeff_simpson
Date:September 2nd, 2008 05:23 pm (UTC)
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I don't think you can infer "no confidence" from a lack of interest. Just because people didn't fill out the form doesn't mean that the plan wouldn't work.

That would be like counting the number of non-voters in an election and saying that those people dislike a candidate. Chances are they are just uninterested in politics or too lazy to vote.

People, in general, are VERY lazy. And very busy doing other things. College students notoriously so. Realistically, the chance of a catastrophic event occurring is very slim, so people don't really spend much time thinking about how to prepare.

Imagine instead of an alert system, they were asking students to check the battery in the fire alarm in their rooms and report back with whether or not they needed a replacement. How many responses do you think they would get? Even though fire alarms are a tried-and-true method of alerting people in the event of a fire, most people don't think to check those things - because fires are rare events! That's why large buildings (like dorms) generally have line-voltage alarms with rechargeable battery backups. And they do their own yearly checks to make sure everything is in good working order. Leaving safety in the hands of a college student is just asking to get burned.

Maybe it's just me, but this sounds like they have addressed the issue perfectly. The issue is a lack of communication in the event of an emergency, so they are putting in a mechanism by which they can notify everyone of information in an emergency. Would you rather have an air raid siren?
From:dirkcjelli
Date:September 2nd, 2008 05:30 pm (UTC)
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The issue is not simply a lack of communication during an emergency.

The issue is "what measures do you take prior to an emergency?"

If it is determined that a means of communication is needed, you still need to decide how to use that communication system.

In the case of fires, procedures are discussed ahead of time with students and staff. Fire drills are enacted. Regulations exist to govern the number of emergency exits. Efforts are made to convey best practices (test doors for heat, crawl, close doors behind you, etc.)

Since people aren't providing their information, and haven't been for some time, and the new "mandatory" information requests don't require information to be input, I wouldn't even say the issue of communication has been adequately addressed.
From:dirkcjelli
Date:September 2nd, 2008 02:52 pm (UTC)
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(I'll edit the post accordingly)
From:dirkcjelli
Date:September 2nd, 2008 03:03 pm (UTC)
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Further...

While such a system may provide legal cover for WPI, since they've "addressed the problem" without actually improving safety they're effectively blocking genuine discussion/reforms in how we deal with crises as a society.
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From:zonereyrie
Date:September 2nd, 2008 06:43 pm (UTC)
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On an unrelated (to the original post) note, I read an article recently that said Amber Alert systems are almost entirely ineffective. That they don't really result in the recovery of any abducted children. When they've been used and a child is recovered it has been trough non-Amber Alert related tips, etc. And in cases when the abduction was with the intent to rape/murder it hasn't stopped it. But it makes people feel better because they feel that something is being done.

Ah, I think this was it.
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From:solipsistnation
Date:September 2nd, 2008 04:30 pm (UTC)
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Do you have details on what they actually use?

UCSC is implementing something similar. Having BEEN school administration (which I'm pretty sure you haven't), you have to think about this stuff, because the original system (emailing people, or just, you know, hoping the word gets out somehow) doesn't work at all.

I think that if you don't give them some kind of emergency contact info you're kind of an idiot, but I'm curious what your "lamb to the slaughter" scenario involves. Here's a hint as to why your "proactive citizenry" idea doesn't work: People don't know what to do in a crisis and panic, and they may not even know there IS a crisis. And heck, would YOU believe it if some random student crashed into your classroom shouting that there was somebody shooting up Fuller? I wouldn't.

I think that you don't know enough about how these warning systems actually work...


From:dirkcjelli
Date:September 2nd, 2008 04:38 pm (UTC)
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I have previously contacted relevant WPI administration people, and they have not disabused me of my opinion as to how they intend to use the system though they had ample opportunity to do so.

In the mass shootings to date, victims complied with instructions from the gunman (eg. to get down, to stay put, etc.) then the gunman walked up and down the rows shooting. Emergency medical response is delayed by the presence of said gunman, and additional fatalities occur as a consequence of the delay in getting them to a hospital.

Judging from past WPI emergency notifications, they'll be of the sort "do not confront the gunman... do what he says, wait for campus police, etc."

If people don't know what to do in a crisis, and WPI is worried about a specific case, perhaps they should be telling people what to do in the event of a crisis rather than waiting until there is an actual emergency?
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From:zonereyrie
Date:September 2nd, 2008 06:40 pm (UTC)
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I think the system is intended more for people who aren't in immediate danger - so that they can stay out of the area, or get out of the area. If I'm in a random lab in Fuller and a 'Gunman in Fuller' message comes in, I will try to get the hell out of there, preferably in the opposite direction from where ever the gunman is. Or if I'm in Fuller and 'Gunman in Kaven' comes in, I know damn well not to leave in that direction. It can take time for the authorities to close off an area, and in cases where the shooter is going room to room, sitting and waiting is not the best plan.
From:dirkcjelli
Date:September 2nd, 2008 06:44 pm (UTC)
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The system is intended to provide legal cover for the school and an entrepreneurial opportunity for whomever sold them on the idea.

What leads you to believe they won't tell people to sit and wait quietly?
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From:zonereyrie
Date:September 2nd, 2008 07:08 pm (UTC)
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Whatever it *tells* me to do, the meta-information of 'Gunman in X' (and I'd hope there is SOME data in the message other than "Random emergency, sit tight") is useful. I don't think a notification system per se is a bad idea. No matter what, data is useful. What you do with it is up to you.
From:dirkcjelli
Date:September 2nd, 2008 07:11 pm (UTC)
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... assuming, of course, a low false positive rate...
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From:zonereyrie
Date:September 2nd, 2008 07:19 pm (UTC)
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True, crying wolf always reduces the usefulness of any alarm system.
From:dirkcjelli
Date:September 2nd, 2008 07:22 pm (UTC)
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Airport screenings have resulted in infinitely more large-breasted women being molested than terrorists caught-- that data collection is of negative utility because of false positives.

Similarly, a false claim that there is a gunman in Fuller could result in a suspicious-but-innocent student being mobbed.