LU Seeks to update Rave Alerts



Luiz Rodrigues| Lindenlink Contributor

Two months before the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School caused a public outcry about school security, officials at Lindenwood University were working on plans to keep students safer.

The Campus Task Force, formed in October, is headed by the director of Public Safety and Security, John Bowman, who is new to LU this school year.

Bowman said a key area he is working to improve is communication in the event of an emergency. The group is forming guidelines to make sure every student knows the location of safety areas in the case of tornados, how to find fire extinguishers in the event of a fire and how to proceed to exits in case of an emergency.

They are also buying radios for security staff, classrooms and dorms, he said. In addition, Bowman plans to offer classes to first-year students about safety issues.

Other changes to security procedures and policies are being compiled and will be published on Lindenwood’s website and Facebook page before fall semester.

Besides Bowman, the task force includes Dean of Students Terry Russell, Scott Queen, the director of community and public relations at Lindenwood, plus vice-presidents and several faculty members.

Queen said his role, together with Bowman, has been to review the Rave system and to try to improve it.

Rave was implemented at Lindenwood five years ago after the shooting at Virginia Tech. The initial idea was to communicate events and student life, but priorities have changed.

The internet-based tool allows the task force to communicate with students through text messaging, Twitter, Facebook and e-mail, spreading any safety message to all of Lindenwood’s campuses and related community.

Since December, 12 alerts have been issued by Rave. Besides test messages, they included information about tornado warnings, cancellation of classes due to a snowstorm, a lockdown on Belleville’s campus and a warning about Stevens Institute’s shooting in St. Louis.

Queen said LU wants to make Rave even more efficient.

“We are working with the IT department to target the message properly,” he said. “So if we have a tornado warning near Lindenwood’s site in O’Fallon, there’s no need to alarm all campuses.”

More than 10,000 people currently are registered in Rave’s database. Once a student becomes enrolled at Lindenwood, his or her information is automatically migrated to the system.

One glitch is students who don’t provide a cellphone number when they first apply. They won’t get text messages unless they register later on the student portal. E-mails, however, will be sent to all students.

“I really think they are useful,” said Rayza Saenz, a MBA in accounting student. “I’m always with my cellphone, so I’ve seen all the alerts right on time.”

Queen said Bowman, who has a background in law enforcement, has lots of ideas about how to improve safety, and students should see lots of changes happening in the final months of school.