UHPD needs to take safety alerts more seriously
Recently University Police have not been sending out safety and emergency alerts when they absolutely should. In order to prioritize the safety and sanity of students, UHPD needs to step up its safety alert game.
The Houston area experienced a tornado warning for about an hour and a half on Oct. 27. Tornado warnings are different from tornado watches. Watches mean the weather conditions are fit for a tornado to happen which only require people to monitor the weather just in case.
Warnings however mean a tornado has been seen or has been sensed by a radar. This calls for people to get to shelter, preferably at the bottom floor or basement of a building while staying away from windows. It certainly doesn’t call for people to walk outside to a morning class.
However, many students did this due to the fact that there was no UH Safety Alert sent out.
Usually, if there is severe weather, UH will send out alerts saying that it’s monitoring for potential severe weather. A tornado warning is definitely indicative of severe weather and yet there was absolute silence from UH. There wasn’t even an alert about monitoring weather, let alone canceling classes for the hour.
If a tornado had been nearby this could have been very dangerous for students and others on campus. UH did an incredible disservice to the UH community by not acknowledging the tornado warning.
Another example of UH dropping the ball on safety alerts was later that same day. A Houston Police car chase ended in the area behind Pink’s Pizza. The suspect barricaded themselves in a car with a weapon. A SWAT team was on the scene and the suspect was taken into custody.
While UHPD described this incident as being off-campus, it was just across the street from University Lofts, an on-campus residence hall. Pink’s and that area of restaurants are so close to being on campus that they might as well be.
Many students witnessed a bunch of police cars on campus and didn’t know why they were there, which can lead students to jump to conclusions making them afraid of different situations.
UHPD only sent out an email message to students once it realized Calhoun and Spur 5’s road closures were affecting traffic on campus. There was not an alert sent out until a whole half hour after The Cougar published a brief detailing the situation.
The student-run newspaper should not be the first to inform people of a situation where an armed suspect is in a standoff with police across 500 feet away from on-campus student housing. UH have an on-campus police force that is supposed to alert students of situations like that.
Many high schools will have a lockdown if there’s a police chase nearby the school or a robbery nearby even if the incident is off-campus. Students deserve to know what’s happening in their backyard, especially when they can see a lot of police cars.
Students on campus as well as their families put trust into UHPD to keep campus safe.
UH faculty, staff and students also rely on UHPD to stay informed about different incidents on campus. There was a failure to accomplish this in regards to the Houston Police situation and the tornado warnings.
Students should be able to know why there is a bunch of police on campus. They should also not be left in the dark about risky weather. UHPD failed the students in these incidents when it came to the alert system.
Anna Baker is an English senior who can be reached at [email protected]