Texting through crisis
With inclement weather on the horizon, the Vandal Alert system will prove an essential communication tool for power outages and other safety concerns. Campus community members are encouraged to register their cell phones to utilize the system throughout the year.
Patrice McDaniel, assistant director of Emergency Management and Security Services, said campus power outages, delays and closings are at the top of the risk priority list.
“The power lines are not underground, (but) on power poles,” McDaniel said. “With weather, there could be an ice storm … (or an) auto accident could cause a power outage.”
Since many people don’t spend all day with their email inboxes, it’s important for students to register their cell phone numbers to receive important safety and security updates and instructions via text messages, she said. There is no need to worry about message spamming, as she said Vandal Alert works on a case-by-case basis and only urgent issues will be addressed by phone.
Matt Dorschel, executive director with EMSS, said email isn’t the best method of contact in critical situations.
“Through past experience, we know that during many emergency incidents, cell phones are the most reliable way of contacting a University of Idaho student or employee, especially during non-business hours,” Dorschel said.
McDaniel said situations such as robberies and shootings may not be likely, but the community must be prepared to handle such events with notifications, such as when to take “shelter in-place” — getting behind locked and barricaded doors and silently awaiting all-clear signal notifications and instructions. She said the Vandal Alert team keeps tabs on police scanner frequencies in order to take quick action in the event of danger.
“We always have on a scanner so we hear about all the different crimes that are taking place … so we have an awareness of what’s going on in the city,” she said.
The Vandal Alert system isn’t limited to Moscow. McDaniel said the system enables the team to anticipate risks and assess details for other UI facilities, such as the Coeur d’Alene campus, and to send specific messages to meet the needs of a particular area.
EMSS is taking steps to educate students, staff and faculty about the importance of the Vandal Alert system. McDaniel said the team worked with UI football and soccer athletes to create an advertisement that plays on-screen during pre-game and half-time periods in football games.
She said there was a Homecoming table set up outside the Kibbie Dome, and others have been set up in the Idaho Commons. Another is planned for the Student Recreation Center. She said these are important to connect with the campus community and to increase Vandal Alert visibility. There will also be give-away items that encourage safety, such as flashlights and bags with nighttime reflectors.
“Those are some incentives that we have for people who sign up,” she said. “You sign up, you get a free gift.”
Cell phone registration can be done through the Vandal Alert link on Vandal Web.
Matt Maw can be reached at email@example.com