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UAA emergency messaging system offers new contact options

As of last week, UAA students and employees got the option of enrolling in an emergency messaging system designed to notify students about crises on campus.

The new system will affect about 24,000 people at the main UAA campus, satellite campuses, Kenai Peninsula College, Prince William Sound Community College and Matanuska-Susitna College.

Manch Garhart, emergency management associate with the University Police Department, said, “This is a full UAA system implementation that will only inform people of emergencies happening on campus, not campus closures or other university news.

He said students and employees should have received an email last week via their UAA email account asking for them to register for the service.  Options for points of contact include email, text messaging and phone calls to personal and office phone numbers.

According to the System Office of Risk Services website, there are also mass notification elements such as loudspeakers, desktop monitor alerts and hallway beacon lights in some areas. It also organizes a way to contact local media, posts on UAA related Facebook pages and updates the university home page.

He said the contacts entered into the system should be “contact me now” information.

While Garhart said he does not know how much the system costs, it was implemented to keep students informed in the case of an emergency.

USUAA President Alejandra Buitrago said she was briefed about the new system along with others at the University Assembly meeting Thursday.

“I think it’s a great tool—that we’re finally doing this,” she said.

There was a concern at the meeting that because the same company that owns Blackboard runs the system, there might be a chance for it to crash if Blackboard crashes. However, she was told that the system runs on a different server.

Also, she said there was discussion about what kind of information would be given in the message in the event of an active shooter scenario.

The system is set to inform students about the event on campus, while providing them a link to the UAA home page, which gives information about what to do if a shooter is on campus.

“It’s a great step in the right direction,” she said.

Civil engineering senior Jesse Jack said he felt neutral about the investment because he already has his UAA emails forwarded to his phone.

Many students interviewed said they were unaware of the new system as of Friday and said they do not frequently check their UAA email account.

To sign up for the alerts, visit www.alaska.edu/uaalerts and log in using the same username and password required by Blackboard. 

Written by J. Almendarez

J. Almendarez is a journalism junior who transferred to UAA this fall from San Antonio College, located in South Texas. At SAC, she worked at the national award winning student publication, The Ranger, as a reporter, photographer, Multimedia Editor and Executive Editor. After graduation next fall, she plans to work as a reporter for a daily in South Texas. Eventually, she would like to earn a Master's degree in Media Convergence. After a long career in journalism, she will go back to San Antonio College, teach a reporting class and die while preaching in front of a group of students about the importance of legit journalism and AP Style.