Editorial: Safety plan for threats is essential

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

A lesson taught at Utica College last week is one everyone needs to learn: If you deal with lots of people, make sure you have an emergency alert system ready to go at a moment’s notice. 

If you don’t, get one. 

UC’s safety plan proved quite effective last Thursday following a threat received at Herkimer County Community College from a caller who warned that “Something’s going to happen to Utica College.” HCCC officials promptly contacted UC, where security ordered a partial campus lockdown and sent out a warning to the college community via emails and text messages. 

Fortunately, the threat proved to be a dud. A man named David Piper was later detained in Scotia, near Schenectady, and identified as the person who allegedly made the threat, UC Director of Campus Safety Jim Saponaro. Further investigation determined that Piper never posed a threat to the campus, and that he had a history of mental illness. 

First, UC and HCCC officials, along with Utica police, are to be commended for their quick action. As we’ve seen with campus tragedies – 32 people were shot to death on the Virginia Tech campus almost a year ago to the day, April 16, 2007 – there is no time to waste in such cases. 

Second, the drama demonstrates how technology plays an enormous role in public and personal safety. If parents ever needed a better excuse for arming their student with a cell phone, this is it. In addition to emails, UC security sent out a text message, which provided students instant warning about the threat. 

Text messaging is often the best way to communicate with young people – college student or otherwise – because it’s instantaneous. Where cell phones one time might have been considered a luxury, they can prove to be a very wise investment given the uncertainties in today’s world. 

Finally, although this threat quickly fizzled, such things must always be taken seriously. It was only a month ago when officials at Colgate University were alerted to an online message where the poster was threatening to shoot at least 50 people on campus. Hamilton village police later arrested 20-year-old George So, a Colgate junior, who said he never intended to follow through with what he wrote, that he was trying to prove the point that the Web site he was using was not credible. 

The Colgate and Utica college communities and supporting police agencies wasted no time in executing plans to insure the public safety. Others should take note.