By Rachel Giordano
On Oct. 23, 2018, the South Santa Rosa Center (SSRC) at Pensacola State College (PSC) went on lockdown due to a credible threat of a potential violent situation that could have caused bodily harm.
An alert went out from campus Police Chief Sean Fagan to all PSC students and faculty that were signed up to receive alerts through the PSC alert system. The sheriff’s department was on scene while director Karen McCabe of the SSRC went around to each individual classroom, giving instructions of what to do.
Brian Underwood, assistant professor of the English and Communication department, was teaching in the single, stand alone building when McCabe made her rounds.
Underwood said that McCabe advised to “lock the doors and keep the students in the class.”
Within two minutes, the alerts started to come through to any student who was signed up to receive them. At first, the students did not know if the alerts were real or if it was a drill.
Several students had already made their way out of the classrooms and were headed to the lobby, only to find that the doors were locked. However, students remained calm and mature throughout the ordeal.
Students have the option of signing up for PSC’s alert system via the website, specifically Spyglass. Students that do not sign up for the alerts will not be aware of such events, such as closings due to weather or in the event of a lockdown.
Underwood said that only half of the students in his class received the alerts on their cell phone or email, and the other half had no idea what was going on.
“I understand that the PSC alert system is an ‘opt-in’ system, and I really think that after we sat down and looked at this event, our PSC alert should be an ‘opt-out’ system,” Underwood said. “Students should have to go online and remove that notification rather than go online and add that notification. That way, we can ensure that every student knows what’s going on.”
Newly enrolled students at PSC are often bombarded with a significant amount of information at one time—signing up for Spyglass, Canvas, Piratemail, in addition to getting their necessary books and materials. Because all of this can be overwhelming, signing up for the PSC alert system can get overlooked.
With this event, the discovery was made that a lot of students are not aware of the PSC alert system, which means they will not receive important alerts. The school is not overwhelmed with alerts, so if a student is automatically opted in, they will find that it is not an inconvenience to be enrolled in the alert system.
The event was happening at 11 a.m., so there were a number of students arriving at that time for their classes, getting out of cars and expecting to walk through the doors, only to find them locked. The only option was to tell the students to “get back into their cars and leave campus.”
Had they been enrolled in the alert system, they would have never arrived in the first place.
“We as a faculty sat down after the event was over and talked about what our plan was—did we stick to that plan—did it work as well as we thought it would—do we need to tweak it, but that’s one thing we all came into agreement was that the alert system needs to be looked at,” Underwood said.