May 20, 2019

Virginia Tech memorial addresses campus safety

At Monday’s Virginia Tech Memorial held in the Free Speech Area, Fresno State mechanical engineering professors Dr. Maria Sanchez and Dr. Ira Sorenson read off the names of the 32 students and faculty who died in last week’s tragedy. The professors are Virginia Tech alumni.Juan Villa / The Collegian

Fresno State Police Chief David Huerta addressed concerns about campus safety during the Virginia Tech Memorial held in the Free Speech Area Monday morning.

Huerta said work is already under way to establish an emergency cell phone system that would provide instant contact between campus authorities and the university community during a crisis.

“The problem is communication,� Huerta said. “We have to have a system that can quickly alert students of any impending danger and steer them away from it.�

Huerta said state officials — in the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy where a student shot 32 people and then himself — are working on legislation that would create a cell phone emergency broadcast system for all California college campuses.

Lt. Governor John Garamendi discussed the proposal in a press release and news conference, also held Monday.

“The technology is available to offer the highest level of protection for our students,� Garamendi said. “This system would save lives should a Virginia Tech situation occur at one of our California campuses.�

Garamendi said in his statement that he has spoken with executives in the cellular industry about the system and has received assurances that they would help investigate and develop the warning program. State legislators and the Office of Emergency Services have also been contacted to begin developing the protocol and scope of the program.

Garamendi will also coordinate his proposal with ongoing efforts in the Legislature. The State Senate Committee on Education has announced that it will hold a hearing in the coming weeks to discuss campus safety issues.

This new cell phone emergency broadcast system would work much like the ones used for television and radio, except instead of a special sound, a text message would be sent to students who put their phone numbers in their school’s database.

Huerta said efforts are currently under way to set up registration for current students to input their own cell phone number into Fresno State’s planned emergency system database.

“Current students don’t need to worry,� Huerta said. “We will seek you, either by e-mail or designated sign-up areas that will eventually be set up around campus.�

Huerta said that future students enrolling and planning to attend Fresno State will have their emergency contact info automatically put into the database.

Huerta strongly suggests students keep their contact information current and to report anything suspicious.

“We are a community,� Huerta said, “which means we have to work together to keep the lines of communication open.�

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