An Open Letter to Drexel University Public Safety and Administration sign now

This is an open letter regarding an egregious failure to disclose pertinent safety information to the Drexel University community. A recent crime in University City has pointed out a major breach in the universitys DrexelALERT system, endangering the lives of students, faculty, and those in the surrounding community alike.

On January 15, 2010 at approximately 7pm, an armed robber fled the scene of an attempted heist at the Bridge Cinema de Lux Theater box office at the corner of 40th and Walnut Sts. The heist broke out into a gunfight, leaving an off-duty Harrisburg police officer and a Drexel University student wounded with a gunman on the run in University City. Philadelphia police began a manhunt and local news sources picked up the story only hours later, yet not one warning was issued from public safety or Drexel administration notification systems a full 24 hours following the incident.

I am not writing to denigrate the work of the men and women who serve to protect our community as public safety officials and University City police officers. I am forever grateful that they continue to put themselves on the line to ensure the safety of myself and the rest of the Drexel and University City communities. I also recognize that Drexel University and University of Pennsylvania both have public safety departments ranked as top in the nation. However, I feel that it is necessary to highlight the dangers posed by leaving this crime unreported to community members.

Thankfully, there were no known victims in addition to those at the crime scene. But what if we were not so lucky? With a gunman on the loose, especially during a time when many students are walking around the city, it was quite possible that many more could have been hurt or even killed as a result of Drexels non-disclosure. What do you tell to a family whose son or daughter was injured or killed because a simple warning was not given to notify him or her that a potential threat was identified in the campus area?

Drexel University has worked hard and invested a great deal of money to create an emergency notification system, DrexelALERT, designed to be used in such scenarios which can issue important messages across multiple communication lines. Why was this not been used? Students at the very least should have been warned to remain vigilant, if not told directly to stay off of the streets until further notice when more detailed information surrounding the event could be released. It only takes a few minutes to write and deliver a message that could save lives.

Furthermore, this is an exact scenario for which the emergency notification system was designed. According to the Drexel Public Safety website,

An emergency is a situation which poses a serious risk to the safety and health of the Drexel community or significantly disrupts its programs and activities. Drexel's Department of Public Safety has created a comprehensive list of emergency scenarios. Most are based on threats that any campus could experience, such as shootings, terrorist attacks, bomb threats, hazardous materials, extreme weather-related conditions or fire.

If we have such a system in place, why would it go without use?

Simply having DrexelALERT and other communication networks may send a great message to the public, but a system is only as good as how it is used in times of crisis. This weekend, Drexel has demonstrated that there is a major flaw in our communitys emergency response protocol. If not immediately addressed, I fear that a similar situation may arise, but we may not be so lucky that next time.

Thank you for hearing my concerns.

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Joshua SchultzBy:
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Drexel University Public Safety and University Administrators

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