Emergency texts alert students of campus crimes

Shantel-Ann Pettway

Levels of security on university campuses heightened after the Virginia Tech massacre in April 2007. WKU, being one of those universities, designed a text messaging system in an effort to keep students safer while on campus. 

The system notifies students and faculty of danger through emergency text alerts. 

“The original goal was to alert students of active shootings on campus, in hopes that they would detour from the danger zone,” Vice President for Student Affairs Howard Bailey said. 

A lot of the work to get emergency text alerts out to students and faculty is done by dispatchers and active shift commanders of the WKU Police Department and the Bowling Green Police Department. They are also responsible for the suspect descriptions and spell checking the reports.

WKU Police Capt. Dominic Ossello said getting messages out in a timely manner is the main priority.

Race is usually mentioned when describing suspects. Bailey said this is needed because it’s part of the suspect’s physical description. 

“WKU wouldn’t be doing its job if students weren’t warned about potential dangers, from anyone, of any race,” he said.  

Some students, like Central City freshman Mahogany Gordon, agree. 

“For other freshman like me, staying safe on this new campus is important, so knowing the race and other information about suspects is important,” Gordon said. 

Crimes that happen off campus that can still affect WKU are also covered in the emergency text alerts. 

Ronnie Ward, BGPD’s public information officer, said agencies like WKUPD are contacted when a crime occurs.

Campbellsville sophomore Georgia Childers said, “It’s nice to know what’s going on outside of campus, because the text alerts determine if I’ll stay indoors.” 

Students can register for emergency text alerts when they attend the Academic Transitions Program, an orientation for students. Registration is also available through students’ TopNet accounts.

Ossello said there are about 17,000 subscribers to the emergency text alert service.

However, some subscribers have missed out on alerts due to common error of man-made systems. 

“Since I’ve been in my position and aware of the program, errors have occurred, but most people do receive their emergency alerts,” Ossello said.

He said there is a two to three minute delay between the first person who receives the text message and the last person who receives the text message. The delay is usually dependent on the cell phone service provider. 

Ossello said there are other methods of informing students in case the text messages fail, including the outdoor warning system and relaying an audio message through any TV connected to WKU’s cable system.

 “We have several avenues,” he said.