University says some students did not get text alerts following September bomb threat

David Maly

The University announced Tuesday that some students did not get the campus-wide text alerts sent during two emergency situations this fall.

According to the Campus Watch report issued Tuesday by UT police officer Darrell Halstead, some students reported to police that they did not get emergency text alerts the University sent during a false bomb threat made against the campus in September and a false report of a gunman on campus last week. According to the report, police found that some of those students’ parents signed up for the text alerts, and when they did, “the student’s cell number was knocked out of the system,” because only one phone number can be associated with a student, faculty or staff member’s account. UTPD spokesperson Cindy Posey said she is unable to comment.

Only students, faculty and staff are eligible to receive the text alerts, according to the University’s emergency preparedness website. In response to the exclusivity of the alerts, Texas Exes and Texas Parents, the UT alumni association and parents’ association, respectively, have been working with UTPD to aid in alerting the public during emergency situations by sharing information with the public, including through the Texas Exes Twitter account.

Texas parents director Susie Smith said several issues exist with the text alert system that require the University to limit it to students, faculty and staff.

Smith said the text alerts are currently being delivered to at least 70,000 students, faculty and staff through one University system and that the system could crash if a large group of text alert recipients were added to it. She said adding another system to send alerts might not solve the problem. Smith said placing an additional burden on wireless providers could slow its service down, which would delay delivery of the texts during emergency situations.

Smith said University police have been working to address the issue of the exclusivity of the text alerts since the false bomb threat in September.

“The University should offer to send the text alerts to anyone who could be put in danger by an emergency situation in the area, regardless of their status at UT,” biology senior Karthikeyan Baskaran said. Baskaran is also a community assistant at the Castilian, a private dorm located at the corner of West 24th Street and San Antonio Street.

“It should be [the University’s] responsibility to look out for the safety of everyone, regardless of who they are,” Baskaran said.

Printed on Wednesday, October 17, 2012 as: Emergency texts not reaching all those at UT