University claims not at fault for missed emergency texts

David Maly

Officials said the University was not at fault when members of the UT community did not recieve text alerts sent during two emergency situations earlier this semester.

UT spokesperson Cindy Posey said the University determined that some members of the UT community did not recieve the text alerts sent during a false bomb threat made against the campus in September and a false report of a gunman on campus last week mainly because they did not have the correct phone number entered into the system. She said others did not receive messages because of technical issues. Their cell phone carriers dropped the messages because such a high volume of them were being processed at once. Posey did not have an exact number for how many did not receive the text alerts.

An AT&T spokesperson was unable to provide information or comment on the situation.

Posey said the text alerts are mainly limited to students, faculty and staff because recieving them requires a high-assurance UT EID. She said only one phone number can be associated with each UT EID for the text alerts.

Bob Harkins, associate vice president for campus safety and security, said students, faculty and staff can assure they are registered for the text alerts with the correct phone number by going to the University’s emergency preparedness website or by calling the University of Texas Police Department. He said on the first Wednesday of each month, the University tests the text alert system by sending a message to phone numbers signed up to receive alerts.

Harkins said the University found one reason students did not have the correct number registered with the text alert system was that their parents went onto the University’s website, entered their student’s UT EID and added their own phone number, inadvertently deleting the student’s number from the system.

Harkins said he believes this problem did not occur because of a clarity issue with the University’s emergency preparedness website. The website explains that only one phone number can be associated with the text alerts and only allows one phone number to be entered for the text alerts.

He said some parents of UT students, UT alumni, local business owners and residents of the area surrounding UT have said they would like to be able to sign for the text alert system.

Harkins said the University does not plan to make the system available to the general public, since the University’s responsibility is to the students, faculty and staff at UT. He said others can stay informed during emergency situations by following the University on Facebook and Twitter, monitoring the University’s website and by watching the mainstream media.

Susie Smith, director of Texas Parents, an organization for the parents of students at the University, said representatives from the organization have explored the possibility of creating a separate text alert system for parents and others that would like to receive the text alerts.

Harkins said the University is willing to collaborate with Texas Parents in creating another text message system by providing them with necessary information during emergency situations. He said he believes the project is feasible.

UT spokesperson Posey said roughly 70,000 people are currently signed up to receive the text alerts.

Printed on Thursday, October 18, 2012 as: UT: not at fault for missed emergency texts