University Central Arkansas leaders and students are looking for a better way to get the word out after two students died in a campus shooting
in late October. They took a special field trip to find a system that immediately notifies everyone of emergencies.
UCA student Drew Williams first found out about the deadly double-shooting on campus through text messages from friends. "It's like when you play the rumor game as a child. You whisper in someone's ear by the time it gets around the circle it's completely changed," says Williams.
Nearly an hour later the school sent out the official word. "I think that is unacceptable, so clearly that was a gap that had to be corrected," says Ronnie Williams, Vice President for Student Services.
The alert system UCA used that night notified faculty and staff through phone calls and then the students by email. UCA wants a system that does it all. In times of emergencies they want to be able to notify people through email, text messages and phone calls.
And that brings them to the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management to check out the 3N system. The agency uses it to make notifications across the state in emergency situations. Leaders at ADEM say it works well for them. The system asks the receiver of the message to reply to let them know they got the message.
Drew Williams is on the UCA committee charged with finding improvements to the system. He says text message capabilities are a must because that's how students communicate and in times of emergency he believes it gives students peace of mind. "We're just trying to re-establish that security and make students feel the safest as possible. We're not going to be able to protect them from everything but you want to be given that a sense of security."
Members of the group from UCA say if they don't get this exact system, it will be one very similar. They also want to incorporate a siren system to alert students on campus and give them instructions on what they need to do during an emergency. And more surveillance cameras are going up on campus.