The Times West Virginian

Daily Grind

May 25, 2009

In case of emergency ...

Text alerts latest WVU move to promote safety

Within a week, West Virginia University sent out two separate WVU Alerts by text message and e-mail concerning armed robberies on and near campus.

The first alert was sent in mid-April warning that a suspect with a knife demanded a wallet from a student near Lincoln Hall. The next was sent later that month, cautioning students that a strong-armed robbery occurred near the physical plant.

“The alerts are designed to be a rapid notification system to inform citizens in the event of an emergency situation that places the community in danger,” said Ricky Jackson, assistant director for University Police.

WVU text alerts are the newest addition to the university’s efforts to reduce crime and give out reports quickly and efficiently in case of an emergency. They are meant to be the first warning to send out critical information. The text alerts allow urgent news to be sent directly to the cell phone of those who sign up for the service.

“We keep the texts short and sweet to tell you what to do,” Jackson said. Alerts are also sent by e-mail to all students and faculty with a university e-mail account. Campus police immediately post the alerts on the WVU information screens located at the Mountainlair and Health Sciences, and all the PRT stations.

According to Jackson, University Police use information coming through the 911 system to warn students of events happening in Morgantown. Alerts are divided into three categories: emergency, crime and weather alerts. Emergency alerts consist of warnings of imminent danger to health or safety. WVU senior P.J. Stanko said the alerts are effective when they are sent out promptly when the event occurs.

He said he sometimes does not receive alert text messages until hours after the event occurs, but said this may be due to different cell phone service providers. By going to the WVU Web site, concerned individuals may sign up to be sent timely information about occurrences around Morgantown. Students are allowed to sponsor one other person who does not attend the university to receive the text and e-mail alerts, such as a parent. The program is voluntary but encouraged.

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