Public address system in works

Vice President of Administrative Services Rolf Schleicher said Pierce College has put funding into a bond to add  a public address system to the school’s in case of emergency.

It was widely agreed upon at the Pierce College Council (PCC) meeting on Oct. 24 that though the response to the Oct. 16 threat at Pierce College was an improvement to its emergency communication, there were still issues to be resolved.

Concerns about campus safety and emergency response have been emphasized particularly this semester after two incidents caused a campus lockdown and evacuation within weeks of each other.

The most recent incident started when Deputy Alfred Guerrero received a call about a private message sent on Facebook that said, “Do you have class tomorrow at Pierce? Don’t go.”

Attached to the message were pictures of loaded automatic weapons.

“We checked his Facebook profile and found things that were redflag-ish,” Guerrero said. “I can’t talk about what they were right now as this is an ongoing investigation.”

Pierce College President Kathleen Burke and Guerrero acknowledged the outstanding response from the city. California Highway Patrol, special units and the FBI immediately responded to the threat, according to Guerrero.

“We had a close connection and communicated well with the senior staff,” Guerrero said. “We took the necessary precautions. I don’t want a campus full of targets.”

Burke attributed the success of the situation’s handling to analysis and study of similar past situations.

“We looked particularly at the emergency notification system,” Burke said. “After the fact, we debrief the situation and find ways to try to improve.”

Although the emergency response to the situation was deemed an overall success, there were some critiques in the accuracy of relaying information to students and staff on campus.

“The big issue is ‘What’s happening?’,” Alex Oloo, president of the Associated Students Organization said. “In some areas it is difficult to get a cell phone signal. Some areas cannot receive messages.”

As a remedy to this, Pierce College is planning on installing public address systems and surveillance systems, for which the college has created a budget.

“[The PA system] never was funded but we are working towards it,” Vice President of Administrative Services Rolf Schleicher said. “We are putting funding into our bond program now to do that. That’s something we are seriously looking at.”

Another critique was of the emergency notifications and the lack of information regarding the principle situation, which said to “evacuate the campus due to an undisclosed issue.”

“If it says ‘undisclosed’, it is undisclosed,” Burke said. “It might be that there is an ongoing investigation and we have to be cautious of the information we give out. If we say to evacuate, you need to go. We don’t make that decision lightly.”