CEAS Malfunction


Illustration by Danny Skutvik

Grace Cavanaugh ~ Editor in Chief

  At 12:26 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 14, the University of Lynchburg Emergency Alert System alarms were activated, announcing a dangerous situation on campus. At 12:32 p.m., a LiveSafe text went out declaring it a system malfunction. 

     This is not the first time the system has malfunctioned. On Oct. 16, 2019, the alarm system malfunctioned, also announcing that there was a dangerous situation on campus. Bob Driskill, Director of Security, sent an email then that said, “Several concerns were sent to me in response to today’s unintentional activation of the outdoor Campus Early Alert System (CEAS).   I thought this would be a great opportunity to resend the emergency notification process again.”

     Amanda Linehan, then a junior, replied, “This is the second time an emergency alert system has gone off without a Live Safe notification clarifying it was a malfunction. Alerts like these send many people into a panic, and without a proper warning, they cannot respond accordingly. It is the duty of the Office of Safety and Security to not only keep students, faculty, and staff safe in situations of real danger, but in cases of false alarms as well.”

     She continued, “Many of the students asked what was going on, if people were safe, if we were going to die at the hands of a shooter. We live in a national climate of fear, and these alarms without a warning trigger your students. Please do better to inform us faster. We should not have to wait two hours to hear why the alarm went off. If you are going to advertise the LiveSafe app, use it. Otherwise you create a false notion of safety and security, when in fact people on this campus are not fully informed and are unsafe.”

   At the end of her email  Linehan said, “I hope to see changes in this system.”

     As for the malfunction on Sept. 14, Driskill said, “The system is activated by a “secured” two-way radio frequency from our office, so I am not sure how it was activated. Our system was in the locked mode, so it did not originate from here. I am currently looking into that so it can be resolved to prevent it from happening again.”

     Hannah Pine, senior, said, “I hated it. It added a lot of stress when I woke up to a huge alarm.”

     The alarm was once again triggered at 1:43 p.m. with no LiveSafe notification. According to Aaron Smith, Dean of Students, “Bob Driskill and CSS were able to determine the cause of the first malfunction, which caused the second “malfunction,” as they were testing particular equipment that caused the first alert.”

     Driskill commented, “The system is activated by a “secure” radio frequency or DTMF codes.  In my investigation I have found that some of our mobile radios were accidentally programmed by our radio provider with the capability of sending DTMF activation codes to the towers. The radio in question and its operator has been identified and steps were taken to caution/educate the user and other mobile users of this program error. Contact has been made with our provider to come to campus and to reprogram all of our mobile units so this will not happen again.”

     Smith continued, “So, yes, they had an idea about what might have caused the first and after some testing, they were able to determine the cause.  Unfortunately, that created a second alarm which we also didn’t want as those kinds of alarms can be triggering and detrimental to our campus community.  So we apologize for the impact that these alarms may have had on the community.”

     He finished, “I was happy to hear that the CSS team, and maybe others, were able to determine the cause of the malfunction, yesterday, even though we had the towers serviced in the summer, to prevent this from happening again.”

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