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Onanunseasonablycoolafternoonthreeweeksago,amantumbled30feetfromthe

upperlevelsoftheSanAntonioGarageontothegroundbelow.UTPDandEMSpersonnel
arrivedshortlythereafterand,justminuteslater,newsoftheincidentdirectlyreachedalmost
70,000UTstudents,facultyandstaff.
UsingatoolknownasUTSafetyAlert,adispatcherblocksawayhadtypedupabrief
descriptionreportedfromthefield.Soonthemessageechoedthroughoutthecampuscommunity.
UTPDinvestigatinginjuryduetofall@SanAntonioGarage2420SanAntonio.Pleaseavoid
thearea,itread.Threehourslater,anotherbulletinfollowed:ALLCLEAR.
PeopledidntreceivetheinitialwordthroughTwitterorFacebookorTumblr.Instead,
mostopenedtheirphonestoseeasimpletext.
Withitssaturationherenearing100percent,SafetyAlertsimmediacyanduniversality
havekeptitavitalcommunicationstreamavirtualmegaphoneforpoliceandthe
campusevenintheageofsocialmedia,accordingtoUTsDirectorofEmergency
PreparednessDaveCronk.Sometimes,hecontinued,oldermethodsofcontactremainsupreme
inthepublicsafetyconversation.
Wewanttobeaheadofsocialmedia,Cronksaid.Wewanttoberetweeted.
Becauseofincreasedsupportonthepartofcellphonecarriersandchangestoencourage
useofthesystem,almosttheentireuniversitynowreceivessomeformofnotification,makingit
morecrucialthaneverbefore.
Mostpeoplecarrytheir(cellphone)withthemeverywhere,UTPDCrimePrevention
OfficerPiepersaid,whichisjustgoodcrimeprevention.

ArobberyinWestCampus,flashfloodingandarmedassailantshaveallrequiredUTPD
touseSafetyAlertinthepastseveralmonths.Smartphones,flipphones,emailaddressesand
pagersreceivedeachbulletin,contributingtoatotalof2millionindividualmessagessentinthe
lastyear.
Pieperrememberedatimewhenhesawthesystemsblanketingeffectwhilegivinga
presentationontheverysubject.
Inoticedseveralstudentsintheaudiencebegantochecktheircellphones,Piepersaid.
IthoughtmaybeitwasbecauseIwasspeakingaboutcellphonesbutthenminewentoff.I
glanceddownandnoticeditwasanemergencytextalertregardingarobberythathadjust
happenednorthofcampus.
Beforeanymessageissentout,anapprovalprocesstakesplacetoensurethethreatis
properlyvettedanotheradvantageofamorecontrolledsystem,accordingtoCronk.Theduty
fallstoshiftcommanderslikeLt.LauraDavis.Sheusesachecklist,shesaid,toevaluate
situationsanddecideiftheywarrantmasscommunication.Weatheristhemostcommoncause
underherwatchTroyKimmel,aUTprofessorandmeteorologist,occasionallyconsultsbut
anyongoingincidentisscrutinized.
IdontbelievethealertsaretakenforgrantednowandIsaythatbecausetheyrenot
usedforeverycrimethathappen,Piepersaid.Ibelievestudentswhogetthetextrecognizethat
itissomethingmorethanasimpletheft,graffiticaseorpubliclyintoxicatedsubject.
Cronkaffirmedtheview.
YoucanbreakitdowntoIsthereathreattocampus?,Cronksaid.

DavishasbeenintheUTPDsince1997andsaidhavingastreamlinedsystemhasmade
herjobeasierandkeptotherssafer.
Itgetsthemessageouttothecommunityquicker,Davissaid.Weusedtohavetosend
peopletogotogetthebuildingsmanagerstoknow.Thisisthesirensystem,thepager,the
alertbytextallatonce.
Despiteitswiderangeoftheuses,however,SafetyAlertboilsdowntoanaustere
websitefarremovedfromthesleekinterfacesoftodaysweb.Withitsblocky,graygraphicsand
functionalistdesign,itlooksstraightoutof2004.ButaccordingtoCronkitseffective,revealing
andevenexciting:asidefromastraightforwardpagewherealertsareactuallytypedandsent
likeachatmessage,atabalsorevealsthat59.829studentsareconnectedandCricketaccounts
forlessthan10%ofcarriers.
CooperSystems,asubsidiaryofthepowermanagementcompanyEaton,wascontracted
byUTtosetitupin2007duetotheproliferationofcellphones,Cronksaid,oustingtheold
pageronlymethod.Officially,itsknownasCooperNotificationsRoamSecureAlertNetwork.
Theyprovidethirdpartysupportandhostthewebsite,soitllstillworkintheeventoftheUT
networkgoingdown.Buttheyvehaveleftthemanagementandusageofitentirelyuptothe
university.
UTswitchedthesystemafteracoupleofyearsfromoptintooptoutforanyoneenrolled
hereitsenabledbydefaultnowandusagepredictablysored,Cronksaid.Today,students
takeitatfacevalue,focusingmoreonthequirksrelatedtoinexplicablelagsindeliverytimeand
thesyntaxofthemessages.

Itsgood.IlikegettingthemandIliketoknowthatthecampusdoesallitcantomake
sureIminformed,juniorAmandaHanzelsaid.ButitsprettyfunnythatIlivewiththreeother
peopleandweallgetthematdifferenttimes.
SeniorCarolynSchramalsopointedoutshortcomingsduetothesizeconstraintsof
texting.
Sometimesitllbeaveryobscuredescriptionlikemaninblackhat,Schramsaid.
UTcontinuestocollaboratewithcellphonesprovidersandmembersofthecampus
communityoutsideoftheuniversitytoensuremaximumreach,Cronksaid,addingthatthe
systempurgesformerstudentsperiodicallyandisalwaysimproving.AndPieperkeepsanopen
mindaboutanythingthatcouldmakethenotificationsevenmorerapid.
Cronkcitedanincidentin2010involvinganactiveshooteroncampusasanillustration
ofthesystemsenduringadvantages.ACNNnewssegmentfilmedonlocationthatdayfeatured
aninterviewwithastudentrapidlyrecountinghowheandhisfriendswerealertedofthethreat.
Alotofpeopleinourclassesjuststartedgettingtextmessagesandemails,hesaid.
Theywerenotifyinguswhatwasgoingon.