Chico State explains evacuation and safety plans

On Tuesday, photos surfaced on social media showing that the phrase “There Shooting Wednesday” was scribbled on the wall of a bathroom stall in Meriam Library.

Students were confused and began to panic on social media, partially because of the lack of confirmation of whether or not a shooting would actually take place.

UPD sent an email Wednesday evening confirming that the situation did not pose a threat. However, the nature of the situation raised the question: is Chico State prepared for an emergency or evacuation?

“When that rumored evacuation at the library happened a few weeks ago, I thought it was really weird that I found out through Twitter and not an email or something,” Mia Moilanen, first-year biology major, said. “I don’t know the process of how the University Police or Chico State gets that information out, but I know Twitter isn’t it.”

“I know a lot of people, including myself, that stayed away from the library that Tuesday when those photos of the writing on the wall were circulating on social media. It was really scary and confusing. Again, I went online or went and even asked some officials if they knew what was going on but nobody had a clue.”

Moilanen also said she hopes that if something dangerous were to happen on campus, such as a shooting, that Chico State would be prepared.

“I have seen more police on campus and I did watch the active shooter training video online, but it still worries me that, if the campus can’t inform us on time about what’s going on, will they be able to protect us in time as well?” Moilanen said.

Campus Emergency Preparedness and Occupational Safety manager Yvette Streeter, UPD commander Christopher Nicodemus and executive director of housing Connie Huyck also addressed how prepared campus is for an emergency.

“We prepare for various types of emergencies on campus,” Huyck said. “We are on top of our training and we do feel prepared if something were to occur at Chico State,” Nicodemus said.

Streeter explained that Chico State has a variety of safety and evacuation plans online on the Chico State website under the Evacuation Procedures and FEC Information.

“The website containing all of this crucial information has always been up,” Streeter said. “It’s been up even before I even started working here. We update it as often as needed.”

Although there are resources and information available online, students often still report on social media that there is a huge gap between them and the university when it comes to proper communication.

Streeter explained that communication between students and the university can improve immensely, but only if students put in their part as well.

“There is a general lack of awareness of what the university has in place,” she said. “We communicate to students… but it is an individual responsibility of everyone to be prepared.”

Nicodemus said social media is both a positive and negative way to improve communication between the university and students.

“Social media will always be faster than the police department. Sometimes the information takes some time to put out because we don’t want to put out inaccurate information. We are trying to improve in that area of being as fast as social media but we want to put factual information out.”

In the email that was sent out on Wednesday, the last paragraph explained how social media affects the accuracy of information when sent without verification.

“We can’t fire off information without verifying it and to keep it in mind when looking at things such as the incident that occurred at the library,” Nicodemus said. “Instead of spreading the information, it’d be better to report it. Many students were concerned about it and maybe it wouldn’t have exploded the way it did if it was reported immediately. We also can’t fire things off without informing University Communications.”

Nicodemus said that the situation in Meriam Library that took place on Tuesday was determined to be non-threatening by investigators.

“We have our rubric on how we assess threats,” he said. “There’s no guarantee, but we have to go with the best practice, and that’s how we deemed it non-specific and non-legitimate.”

Hucyk, Nicodemus and Streeter all said the university will continue to do things such as evacuation drills and informational sessions to inform the students of their mission and priorities.

“Student safety is paramount,” Huyck said. “It is the most important aspect of what we do. Our entire team makes this the number one priority.”

Nicodemus advises students to speak up and report to UPD if they have any extra information regarding the incident at Meriam Library. The next evacuation drill will take place on Nov. 14 at 2:30 p.m. at the BMU, Meriam Library, and the Student Services Center.

Angelina Mendez can be contacted at [email protected] or @theorion_angie on Twitter.