Imagine sitting in the restroom on the second floor of the Cesar Chavez Building when an 8.5-magnitude earthquake shakes the tile beneath your feet. How will you stay up to date on the latest emergency information?
In an effort to keep students safe, Santa Ana and Santiago Canyon Colleges have introduced a system that keeps students and faculty up to date on any emergencies that they should be aware of.
AlertU is a hosted emergency mass notification system that provides SAC and SCC a web-based SMS platform that both communicates information during an emergency and receives tactical information from the crisis zone in real time.
Following The Virginia Tech massacre 2007, the District decided that there was a need to inform students and faculty in case of emergencies.
“That’s when the issue of immediate notification to students during emergencies popped up”, said Director of Safety and Security Al Chin. “People thought it was important for institutions of higher education to be able to directly communicate emergency information, real time, to their students.”
AlertU also keeps students informed about other happenings on campus. The last time officials used AlertU at SAC was for “The Great Shake Out” a statewide earthquake drill last October
SCC has also used it on their campus during a power outage last semester, utilizing it to update students about classes and building closures. “We have tested it, and we try to test it at least once a year,” said Vice President of Administrative Services Paul Foster.
The first phase was to get faculty, staff and administrators to sign up, so AlertU would have a core group who would know when there was an emergency on campus. The new goal is to increase subscriptions among students.
Subscription is voluntary and currently has about 2,000 signed up out of the 17,000 students that come here part or full-time, per semester, and roughly 2,500 employees. The subscription is free with supported network carriers.
Students, however, face the dilemma of having to use their cell phones in class to access the service.
“Most teachers aren’t particularly fond of them and do not want to see them in class” said Marisol Calderon, a child development major at SAC. This makes it increasingly difficult for students to have their cell phones out or near them because the majority of teachers consider cell phones a distraction.
“I do not allow students to have cell phones out in the classroom unless they tell me ahead of time” said Monica Collins, Coordinator of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing program. “It is our responsibility to ensure your safety… and to make you feel as safe as possible. This makes me more aware of letting my students know that one of the reasons I need to reference my phone during the course of the class time is to make sure that we have not got an emergency alert.”