Out of an abundance of caution…where’d you go?

On Saturday night, a dorm room went up in flames. No, my up-and-coming hip-hop friends didn’t just drop their latest mixtape. There was an actual fire in one of the residence hall dorm rooms. Thankfully, no one got hurt. But where was that usual text message and email telling everyone to stay away from the area while emergency personnel responded?

The only way I knew something was going on was when I saw a post on social media of the fire from a friend. That, plus the fact my car was blocked by emergency vehicles in the parking lot.

The last time I was alerted, via text message, about an emergency situation going on on campus was on Aug. 4—there was a power outage. The time before that, when there were actually students on campus, was in April—another power outage situation.

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Earlier this semester, a fire broke out on the roof of the chemistry building. The building was evacuated and the fire was put out. But I guess that was not important enough to notify the general public to stay away, as well.

What’s the point of having an emergency management system if you’re not going to use it to it’s full capacity? It’s as if you don’t want the student journalists at Stony Brook to have a leg up on breaking news. Or it’s that you only think power outages are the only emergencies we should know about when chances are, we would already be experiencing the outage ourselves even before receiving your message about it.

Ok, I understand, Office of Emergency Management, maybe texting isn’t your thing. You’re more of a social media butterfly—alerting everyone of your presence through an avalanche of tweets and Facebook posts. But no tweets, and no Facebook posts either about the dorm room fire over the weekend. The last tweet was a series of emojis trying to convey the weather and how I should feel about it on Nov. 19.

In this day in age, where communication is key in all emergency situations, the Stony Brook Office of Emergency Management has repeatedly shown to have failed us. The safety of all students, faculty and staff should be the top priority for our emergency management personnel. If OEM can’t even handle notifying us of a couple of fires, how would they react to something a lot worse? 

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3 comments

  1. While I personally understand why a contained fire might not qualify as an emergency important enough to alert the student body about via text, I will agree that Stony Brook has a bit of a habit of keeping students in the dark. Like the incident last year when that guy was wandering around campus with an unloaded gun and a meat cleaver, looking for his ex or something — THAT’s alert-worthy, and yet I got all of my information from YikYak

  2. I fail to see the reason why a contained incident at 7:00 PM on a Saturday night warrants an alert. I had the opportunity to speak with the Director of Campus Emergency Management about this on Monday and he used an analogy to explain why no alert message was sent.

    How often did you answer the phones calls or acknowledge the messages from your high school? I asked a few people this question myself and most never said immediately (anticipating snow days don’t count). He said that he doesn’t want students to develop this complacency and wants to use the system conservatively, so that in the event the SB Alert system does need to be used, students won’t swipe the messages away to read later. For a situation like (God forbid) an active shooter, you don’t want students ignoring these messages (I’m aware this is an extreme example, but the Director used this as well).

    Aakash said it well. The SB Alert system is not your personal press resource. I can understand that not being notified after the fact and finding out through third-party sources such as Newsday can be frustrating, but then your frustrations need to be directed at the Office of Communications, not the Office of Emergency Management.

  3. I don’t really understand what the issue here is. These alert systems exist to notify students of issues on campus that affect student life: criminal/police activity, campus-wide power issues, etc…

    Just what threat does a rooftop or dorm room fire pose to the student body? The building is evacuated and the FD summoned whenever an alarm is triggered, regardless of the nature of the fire.

    So at which point would Manju prefer the text? When a hookah trips the alarm, when the building is evacuated and the threat neutralized, or after the fire depattment has already entered the building and investigated? If his gross misunderstanding of the alert system as some kind of press resource* is to be folowed, then the whole campus ought to be alerted every time someone burns their toast.

    At no point in this article does Manju actually explain what the threat is, and the obvious reason why is that a dorm fire is not a threat, not a campus emergency, and not worth an alert.

    *seriously, a building is evacuated and there are fire trucks in a quad, and you’re

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