Police chief defines, clarifies emergency alerts

Police chief defines, clarifies emergency alerts

As a new academic year begins, MTSU police are clarifying emergency-notification language to ensure better understanding and a safer atmosphere for the campus community.

Every person with an MTSU email address now receives emergency alerts from the Rave Mobile Safety system via email. To receive a text and/or voice alert, users must register for those optional services at

Officials said MTSU public-safety dispatchers will issue an “immediate notification” across campus via the Rave system if a crime or event poses an imminent threat to the campus community. Otherwise, officials will issue a “timely warning.”

Police Chief Buddy Peaster explained that an “immediate notification” will be issued when officials have confirmed that the incident has taken place, determined the type of incident, identified its location and determined that there is an “imminent threat” to the campus community.

“An ‘immediate notification’ will always be issued for such events as a shooting, a person with a gun, an aggravated assault, forcible sexual assault, armed robbery, bomb threat, explosion, fire, chemical spill and any weather-related emergencies,” Peaster said. “Other situations or incidents will be considered on a case-by-case basis.”

Because the campus community encompasses both the main campus and surrounding neighborhoods, Peaster’s department has determined areas within off-campus geographic boundaries that also will receive an immediate notification, if needed.

Chief Buddy Peaster

“Obviously we can’t monitor all of Murfreesboro,” Peaster said. “However, our campus is surrounded by apartment buildings that house students.”

When the campus community should be made aware of a situation and remain vigilant, but there’s not an apparent imminent threat to MTSU, Peaster said the Rave system will issue a “timely warning” notification.

An “immediate notification” will direct recipients to take action, such as evacuate a building or shelter in place. The less-urgent “timely warning,” Peaster explained, will ask recipients to watch for unusual or suspicious behavior and report it to campus police.

The chief continued that “evacuate” and “shelter in place” also are important terms to know. An “evacuate” alert may mean that people should leave a particular building or area of campus or leave the campus entirely, depending on the situation.

“The language in the emergency alert, which in the case of an evacuation will be an ‘immediate notification,’ will be as specific as possible,” Peaster said.

“Shelter in place,” however, means exactly what it says.

“‘Shelter in place’ may mean locking your classroom or office door, turning off the lights and remaining quiet,” he said. “It could mean securing your outside building doors, if that’s possible. What it doesn’t mean is that you should run out of the room and out of the building, especially if the incident in question is nearby. ‘Shelter in place’ means to stay put.”

On a campus the size of MTSU, with more than 150 buildings on more than 500 acres, people must use good judgment and do what makes the best sense in emergency situations, Peaster said.

“Because every building is different and could, during the day, contain hundreds or just a few people, safety procedures will require calm, clear-headedness and everyone working together,” he said.

Here and on campuses around the country, the best action is to err on the side of caution, Peaster noted.

“No one wants to be awakened at night with an emergency alert, especially if they are in their beds in north Nashville,” he said, “but in this day and age, the alternative to a little inconvenience could be having no knowledge of something that might directly affect you.”

Peaster urged MTSU students, faculty and staff to visit and become familiar with the Alert Updates page and the Frequently Asked Questions page. They also should click on the “Tornado” link and study the “Safest Places,” “Preparation Alert” and “Tornado Frequently Asked Questions” pages, too, the chief said. (The “Safest Places” page also is accessible anytime at

A downloadable PDF that includes campus-safety tips is available here.

— Tom Tozer,