U alert system to undergo changes

Feedback after last week’s shooting has prompted UMPD to rethink the system.

by Kyle Sando

The University of Minnesota Police Department is currently evaluating the text message and e-mail alert system to see where improvements can be made, University police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner said Tuesday. Miner said the department is re-evaluating the system based on feedback from the community. After the shooting Jan. 25, UMPD received several calls and e-mails regarding the 12-hour gap between the incident and the alert. Miner said the department stands behind its decision not to send an alert in this case because the community was no longer in immediate danger. Jerry Rinehart, vice provost for student affairs, said the shooting was an unusual situation. âÄúIt was clear that the right decisions were made, but it still didnâÄôt result in a satisfactory process, I think, for the community,âÄù Rinehart said. Miner said the department will be expanding the circumstances in which alerts will be sent out. He said the department has held an initial meeting to discuss the issue and will hold another meeting in the near future to plan a course of action. âÄúThereâÄôs a higher expectation for information than there used to be, and we need to respond to that,âÄù Rinehart said. TXT-U, a program designed to send immediate alerts directly to subscribers, was not used during the events of Jan. 25, which drew feedback from the community. Rinehart said one of the issues with text alerts is the difficulty of sending out the right information, so as not to cause a panic, using only 164 characters. Another way the University is planning to get alerts out is the implementation of a new program involving several loudspeakers around campus, Rinehart said. Terry Cook, director of the Department of Emergency Management at the University, said he hopes to have the system up and running before next school year. Cook estimates the project will cost a little more than $500,000, with the federal government contributing $290,000 of the total in the form of a grant. Miner said it will primarily be UMPD who will use the system, but it may also be used in events of severe weather. âÄúThe most important thing is that the people who might be in harmâÄôs way can get out of harmâÄôs way and be protected,âÄù Rinehart said.