Taco Bell Shooting Reveals FIU Emergency Alert System Needs To Change

Laura Antunez/Staff Writer

The shooting that occurred last Thursday at the Taco Bell near MMC on 107 avenue and SW 8 St. could not have come at a stranger time. Not only is the campus at a third of its normal occupancy, but we’re also in the midst of a pandemic where going out to eat is still considered taboo. 

The shooting happened at around 2:30 pm and claimed the life of a 39-year-old man. During this time, FIU was sending students and staff “emergency alerts” through texts and phone calls. 

Although I see the necessity in emergency alert systems like AMBER Alerts and Silver Alerts, I think the one used on Thursday to notify students is indicative of a need for a system reform.

While the university being mostly empty turned out to be a good thing, the alerts were pretty impractical since they offered almost no readily available information.

“FIU ALERT: F I U ALERT!” with a link attached read the first text sent. 

The second one, received about 10 minutes later and bristling with clarity on the situation, read: “FIU Alert: F I U ALERT! POLICE ACTIVITY” and another link. 

Despite the fact that not many people are physically going to FIU right now, there are many students who live near the area. The problem with these alerts is that they need to deliver information the same way AMBER Alerts do: clearly and concisely. 

Aside from the texts, some students received calls from an automated machine to be able to get more information on the situation. There is a reason national emergency systems don’t call users directly: a lot of people are skeptical about answering phone numbers they don’t recognize. And those who did answer the call still had to dial numbers to find out more information. 

What if someone is driving? Or they can only listen to the voicemail? The only information in the voicemail was that it was a notification from FIU, and to press “one” for more information.

In the case of AMBER Alerts, all the information is immediate. There are no links to other webpages or automated calls where you have to dial in a key to get informed. Since we are conditioned to recognize AMBER alerts, the only information you need is where it happened, the time it was reported and information about the car, such as the model, color and license plate number.

If FIU were under immediate threat, the “FIU ALERT: F I U ALERT!” would surely only cause panic. Students need to know information quickly, without having to follow a link. What if the student is in a dead zone or can’t access the link? 

The phone calls were also distracting. I wondered how other people who were at their job felt at the constant interruption. 

The big word among schools and institutions of any kind right now is “safety.” It seems like an oversight to have an archaic emergency alert system right now when so many panthers are spread apart, some with limited access to the internet.

If FIU can create an entire app so students can physically go on campus, then I think they can come up with something better than “FIU Alert: F I U ALERT!”


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

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Featured image by FIU Flickr.

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