Thursday, April 07, 2011

Communication Can Save Lives

via Janice Mount for the Coloradoan
A guest column by RBM about the Crystal Fire, which has destroyed homes near Colorado State University, raised questions about air and water quality in the region, and made national news, but received no mention in the university's communications with students, appears today in The Coloradoan. An excerpt:
The Crystal Fire has reminded me, an instructor at CSU, of an embarrassing, even dangerous breakdown in communication. I live on campus, and like my neighbors, I woke up about 5 a.m. on Sunday thinking my building might be on fire. Nope. But the smell of burning wood was palpable, if not overwhelming. So I went online.

"Safety Information: Report of Possible Peeping Tom." This March 30 e-mail, about yet another man leering at women on campus, is still the last advisory I've received from CSU's "Public Safety Team." Thinking I must be missing some mention of the fire, I left my inbox for "Teeing Up for Golf's Greatest Tournament," read the news at the university's homepage, about former CSU golfer Martin Laird.

What gives, CSU Public Safety Team? I don't like telling people how to do their job, but I'm also bothered by something I've learned from watching the past decade's string of terrorist plots and natural disasters. It's that robust communication can save lives, reassure parents and prevent similar mayhem. That's where I feel CSU staff missed the mark on Sunday.

This isn't to say that apprehending peeping toms isn't important, or that the Crystal Fire has put CSU students in danger. That's beside the point. What I am saying is that CSU can better utilize the tools at its disposal to inform the campus community, in real-time, about the status of emergencies that affect us all.
You can find the full text of RBM's column on page A6 of today's paper and at this permalink.

Update (May 17, 2012) -- One year later, the university's public safety team has posted a helpful advisory on the Hewlett Gulch Fire, another pernicious blaze blackening the hills northwest of campus.


  1. Thanks, Liz. As I know you're building a blogroll, I should recommend soopling's reviews, which also appear in the Coloradoan: Salty / Savory / Sweet