Last Thursday, Emory issued a “shelter in place” citing a police emergency in the Clairmont Campus/Lullwater Preserve/VA Hospital area. Across campus, rumors circulated about the source of the emergency and distorted allegations, including the presence of an active shooter, which was not the case. For those who were in class, many professors were either unaware of the emergency because they were not near their phones, and some failed to adhere to standard emergency protocols. There was no consistency in the way professors reacted — some dismissed their students from class while others shut off lights and barricaded the doors.
According to its website, Emory’s Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response (CEPAR) “serves as the center for Emory enterprise-wide planning for and coordinated response to catastrophic events affecting Emory and the broader community.” CEPAR is responsible for handling situations ranging from Hurricane Irma preparation to last week’s escaped fugitive. Though CEPAR provides various resources, including classroom handbooks, training sessions upon request and August community training specifically for Campus Life staff and Residence Assistants, these measures do not seem to be sufficient, or they aren’t employed often enough. During last week’s emergency, Residence Life seemed to be prepared, with some resident advisors (RAs) and sophomore advisors (SAs) distributing information as they received updates to students via group messages. However, faculty members’ lack of knowledge left some students feeling unsafe or disoriented. Additionally, it was at first unclear whether the warning applied to Emory’s main campus. The emergency texts sent to students warned only of a potential threat to the Clairmont/Lullwater/VA area, and sirens were absent from main campus. This announcement was within minutes of an Emory Police tweet alerting students of a “police emergency occurring on #Emory main campus.”
Communication is fundamental to efficient and effective emergency management. The lack of consistency and preparedness among faculty and staff members could have been disastrous in the event of a real active shooter or violent threat.
CEPAR claims that all members of the Emory community should review safety information. CEPAR promotes its “Run, Hide, Fight” video on its website and encourages students to download the LiveSafe safety app. It also provides guidance through “Just in Time” emergency guides, which hang in classrooms, workplaces and residence halls. A variety of resources are clearly available, but, regardless, many faculty members and students remain uneducated. By making crisis training optional for departments, a lack of preparedness is inevitable. CEPAR should rectify its guidelines to ensure the safety of all members of the Emory community. Going forward, all faculty members should be trained to handle emergency situations more effectively. When our collective safety is at risk, students must be able to rely on their professors to calmly and correctly follow CEPAR procedures.
The Editorial Board is composed of Jennifer Katz, Madeline Lutwyche and Boris Niyonzima.