May 31, 2020

What’s the Deal with CapAlerts?

CapAlerts are timely warnings that notify students and faculty of dangerous situations that occur on or near campus, and are intended to help campus remain a safe and secure environment. 

Any threat to the university’s community and the well-being of students and faculty will usually warrant the issuance of a CapAlert. Severe weather threats and potentially dangerous criminal activity are what mainly cause the issuance of CapAlerts.

“The main goal of [CapAlerts] is to, if it is a direct threat, notify the community while the threat is still active and notify the community again when there is no longer a threat,” Chief Frank Fernandez of the Capital University Police Department (CUPD) said. 

The decision as to whether or not a CapAlert needs to be issued by Public Safety all depends on what CUPD is notified about first. As soon as they are notified of a potential threat to the campus community, they evaluate the situation and make a decision based on their information.

Chief Fernandez
Chief Hernandez has worked in Public Safety since 2009.

If the threat is still imminent and has the potential to harm anyone on campus at the time that it is evaluated by CUPD, then a CapAlert will be issued. If they discover that the situation no longer poses a threat to anyone on campus, then a CapAlert will not be issued and a safety bulletin may be sent out instead. 

“We wait until we have all the information and then we send out a safety bulletin, which is when we notify our community of the type of threat that was nearby, but that it was already taken care of,” Fernandez said. 

Since CapAlerts are only issued if there is a direct threat to the campus community, the dangerous situation at hand usually occurs on campus or very close to campus. 

For example, CUPD often investigates situations on Livingston Avenue. This area isn’t technically on campus, but it is close enough to the point where threats that occur there have the potential to affect the campus community as well. 

“The last one we issued was during orientation,” Fernandez said. “And there was a report of a guy with a rifle on [Alum Creek] running toward CU Apartments, so we sent the alert.”

Campus safety has always been a top priority, but the 2007 incident at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University changed a lot of things for universities, including Capital. 

In 2007, a student at Virginia Tech shot and killed a total of 32 people after shooting two other students in a residence hall earlier that morning. The campus never sent out an emergency notification regarding the residence hall shooting, so no one knew that an active shooter was still at large on campus. 

This tragedy at Virginia Tech is why many universities came up with the idea for a proactive and effective emergency notification system. 

“We really don’t want any of our students to walk into a threat when that could be prevented,” Fernandez said. 

CapAlerts are automatically sent to student and faculty emails, but since cell phones are not technically university property, it is up to students and faculty to take the necessary steps to make sure that they can receive CapAlerts via text message.

“On average, I’d say about three to five maybe, so [the average amount of issued CapAlerts per year] is not really that many,” said Fernandez. “That’s the good thing about being in Bexley. It’s a very safe community.”

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