UNC-Wilmington, UNC-Greensboro evaluate and test alert systems

UNC-Chapel Hill is not the only school reviewing its campus alert system.

Officials at UNC-Wilmington are also investigating their alert system after it failed to notify students of a July 29 shooting.
Investigators are working to issue a full report detailing the source of the failure by the end of this week, said Cindy Lawson, a spokeswoman for UNC-W in an email.

The shooting, which was non-life threatening, occurred at an apartment complex off campus.

The university notified students by email two hours after the incident occurred but failed to sound the siren and alert students through text messages.

Administrators said these incidents are rare and not due to insufficient testing.

Campus safety officials from UNC-W and UNC-Greensboro said they carry out internal daily testing of their emergency alert systems.
UNC-W’s incident follows the investigation of UNC-CH’s Alert Carolina system after students were not immediately notified of an April armed robbery on campus. Changes to the alert system based on this review are set to be unveiled soon.

System failures at UNC-W are extremely rare, Lawson said.

“During my five-plus year tenure here at UNC-W, we have had only one mechanical failure due to a malfunctioning piece of equipment,” she said. “It was discovered during a routine daily test, not during an emergency situation.”

The most recent failure does not appear to be due to faulty equipment, Lawson said.

Jennifer Messer, a junior at UNC-W, said she does not feel unsafe on campus despite the late notification.

“I didn’t get the email until later that night, so I did not worry about it,” Messer said. “I have not been on campus during an actual emergency, but I trust the university to let me know if anything is happening.”

Messer said she also received several emails from the university throughout the summer regarding routine testing of the alert system.

The emails said the system didn’t always function properly, she said.

Messer said she is glad the university is continuously testing the alert system and working out any problems that might exist.
Paul Lester, assistant chief of police at UNC-G, said safety officials on his campus also check the alert systems at the beginning of each daily shift to ensure personnel proficiency with the equipment.

He said campuswide emergency drills are run at least once per semester to familiarize students and safety officials with the system and what might impact it.

“We hope that maybe the more frequently you test the system, the more familiar you become with it,” he said.

In addition to being alerted by sirens, students at UNC-G and UNC-W also receive text messages and emails informing them of drills or emergency situations.

“For us, having multiple methods of notification that we can send out simultaneously makes a huge difference,” Lester said.

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