“Pike County is under a severe thunderstorm warning. Stay alert for rapidly changing weather conditions.”
Messages like the one above are all too familiar to members of the Troy University community who subscribe to the SOS service.
SOS is the mass communication system used by the university, where text and email alerts are sent out to subscribers in case of emergencies.
“The incidents that occur either on-campus or off-campus where students’ safety is on a threat level would be classified as an emergency,” said Herbert Reeves, dean of student services.
The alerts are sent out by Reeves himself.
“I send them out if I am here,” he said. “If I am not here, then there are a couple of people designated to send them out. Now that I have a smartphone, I can send them from my phone even if I am not in Troy.”
Reeves said that the most common emergency seen by the university has been weather advisories.
He added that when the university built the system, it made a commitment to not send any general messages out in this SOS system.
“We would use it if we had a shooter on campus and if he or she had not been apprehended,” he said. “Later, we would also send something out saying the students or the campus is safe after he or she was apprehended.”
In context of the shooting that took place in Wooddale apartments near Trojan Village this past October, Reeves said that a SOS text was not sent to the students because the city of Troy sent no notifications to the university until the day after the shooting.
“That one should have gone out because of the proximity of it to the campus, but we simply did not know about it until the next day,” he said. “By the next day, everything was done with and the man was arrested, so it would have been old news by then.”
Reeves also mentioned that presently, the university is getting information from the city police department, regardless of the time of the day.
“Because of the change in administration of the city police department, we get information now even if it is 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. in the morning,” he said.
He suggested that in case of situations like a shooting on or around campus, the best thing to do is to stay indoors until students get information back from the city that says that there is no threat to the campus and its students.
The university police department also has a weather siren system located on top of many of the blue-light phones for adverse weather. Reeves said that these sirens are tested on the first Wednesday of every month.
“If we go under a tornado warning, they will act like sirens,” Reeves said.
He said that the best way to act in case of crises would be “run, hide, fight,” as suggested by the Department of Homeland Security.
“We also use the same methodology,” he said. “This means if you can run and get away from situations, then run and get away from it.
“If that’s not an option, then you should hide. And lastly, if you cannot to do either one of those then, you should not just sit there, but fight.”
For the safety of students, Reeves advised students to travel in pairs or groups at night and to report any kinds of threatening activities to the university police.
He also requests students to sign up for the SOS system if they have not already.
“We may not send as many messages out like some other schools, but it’s important for them (students) to have it if they need that, because this is one of the main ways we communicate with people if we have emergencies.” Reeves said.
Students can sign up for the SOS emergency system at sos.troy.edu.