UO expands Emergency Alert system

On Tuesday, Jan. 26, around 8 p.m., a man in a black hoodie and Nike sneakers tried to rob a female University of Oregon student on Franklin Blvd. There was a struggle over the student’s bag, but the attacker decided to flee the area on foot. Police arrived to search for the man but were unable to locate him. They decided to ask the community for help.

The university sent out a Campus Crime Alert through UO’s emergency notification system, asking for information on the attacker. 29,589 people received the email notification.

The robber is still at large, but his presence is known of by roughly the population of a small town. Awareness is the primary goal of UOAlert!, UO’s system for instantly notifying all of campus about potential health and safety risks. The system has recently been expanded to allow even more people to sign up.

“We want to be able to inform our community as soon as possible,” said Julie Brown, Campus Relation Director at Enterprise Risk Services. UO Emergency Management and Continuity sends out UOAlerts through email, text and social media and on digital displays throughout campus. Notifications used to go exclusively to UO staff, faculty and students. On Jan. 15, however, UO expanded their services to allow students to add significant others’ non-uoregon emails and phone numbers to the system.

“We received requests from parents to be added to the system,” Brown said. “It will be helpful for students, faculty and staff to add a parent or a partner.”

The system also added selective location services. Subscribers can choose certain areas they want to receive notifications for. This includes UO facilities outside of Eugene. If an incident happens at the Oregon Institute for Marine Biology in Charleston, for example, which is over a hundred miles from the main UO campus, only students who sign up for that location receive those alerts.

“We want to encourage students, faculty and staff to think about where they are every day,” Brown said, “when they say ‘this is part of my routine. I want to know what’s happening in this area.’”

The alerts cover any safety risk, including gas leaks, fires, earthquakes and crime. The Clery Act, a policy of transparency at university police departments, requires that notifications be sent out by the UOPD when certain incidents happen, such as “criminal homicide, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault and burglary, and may be distributed for motor vehicle theft, arson and hate crimes,” UOPD’s 2015 Safety Report says. The list is not exclusive. UOPD focuses on sending notifications when an incident poses a continued threat to the community.

The Eugene Police Department has a similar system called Alert Me, but they are not required to send notifications out. “We don’t have the same guidelines as they [UOPD] do,” EPD spokeswoman Melinda McLaughlin said. “If, say, a street robbery happens, we may send out a notification or not, depending on the situation. They operate under the Clery Act, so they have to.”

UOEMC is working on expanding their subscribers even more. Currently 82.3 percent of UO community members have opted-in for text alerts, but they encourage everyone to participate. “We want to expand in our modes of communication,” Brown said.

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Noah Mcgraw

Noah Mcgraw