Campus security sent its first-ever alert concerning a student’s whereabouts last week.
The focus of the message was a first in Security Director Steve Leonard’s 19-year career at the college. It came after campus security received a report from a student concerned about the way sophomore Simina Mansfield left her residence hall on Sept. 26.
Leonard, the primary decision maker in sending campus alerts, asked people to contact security with “information concerning the whereabouts” of Mansfield on Sept. 27.
The Franklin is identifying Mansfield because she was named in both the campus email and text alert. Mansfield did not respond to requests for an interview.
The message to campus came hours after security was first alerted to the situation on Sept. 26.
Students told security that Mansfield screamed and left her personal belongings in the stairwell shortly before leaving Hoover, her residence hall.
One student identified this scream as one of frustration, not danger.
Security held off on sending an alert, Leonard said, because the student wasn’t believed to be in danger.
Two hours after security received the initial report about Mansfield, the officer on duty notified the Franklin Police Department in an effort to “err on the side of caution,” Leonard said.
“Someone can go to a movie and have their phone off,” he said. “Or go to dinner. Or whatever they want to do. So it was very easily determined, at that time, it’s not an appropriate measure to [send an alert].”
But concerns grew the following day when Mansfield didn’t show up to class.
That’s when Leonard conferred with campus officials and made the decision to send the security alert.
It was sent at about 10 a.m. Sept. 27. The student was located less than two hours later.
“It’s a very conscious decision to not over send [the alerts],” Leonard said. “I want this to be for true emergencies or serious situations that people will pay attention to when I send them.”
The college adopted the text system in the fall of 2008.
Security uses Rave Mobile Safety, a system many college campuses use across the nation, to send the alerts. Security pays each year and has unlimited use of the service.
“If situations warrant it, I will send one every day,” Leonard said. “I will send one every hour if I need to. If it’s determined it’s something all of campus needs to know about, I wouldn’t hesitate.”
Leonard has 11 templates preloaded into the alert interface so he can fill in the gaps and customize the messages quickly before sending them out.
Above all, Leonard said the protocol for sending alerts is on a “case-by-case” basis and is about using resources and the advice of his emergency management team, rather than a by-the-book checklist.
Leonard has mostly used the system to warn the campus about severe weather.
When the Johnson County sirens go off, Leonard and Physical Facilities Director Tom Patz become short-term meteorologists, checking the radar and deciding if the weather is close enough and severe enough to warrant sending an alert.
The idea is to send out a message with enough notice but not too far in advance for students, faculty and staff to get to safety on campus.
The texts and emails are also useful in snowy or icy weather, when classes or evening campus events are canceled. Leonard says they use the messages to disseminate information quicker than through the local news.
In the past, the system has been used to alert the campus to dangerous situations like area armed robberies and a student assaulted and robbed on campus.
“After situations like this, whether it’s formally or informally, the key players touch base to review,” Leonard said. “How did everything go? What could we have done better? Should we have done something differently? I would agree that everything was done appropriately [in Mansfield’s situation].”
To receive future campus emergency messages, log into myFC.franklincollege.edu, expand the “departments” tab on the left side, click “security,” and fill out the “emergency text registration” box on the right side.