MCC finds small margin of error in emergency alert system

Iliana Deanda

With latest headlines in the news like CNN’s “Massacre at Virginia Tech: 32 dead,” it’s important for colleges to have some form of an alert system. On Feb. 12, a test text message was sent out to faculty and students who attend MCC.

The message read: “This is a TEST of the Mesa Community College emergency notification system. No action is required. This is only a test.”

MCC recently adopted a new method of informing students via text message.

“The district decided to contract with a particular company about emergency contact for employees and students. The campus decided to initiate a test to see how effective it is,” MCC President Shouan Pan said.

“We clearly learned that there are kinks that need to be worked out. Some employees and students received the text and some didn’t. As we suspected, some student’s information is outdated. This was an attempt to learn where we are at, to find the loop holes and take some action,” Pan said.

The test text message results showed that not every student or faculty member recieved the message.

“Only 12,076 students, or about one-third of the student population had a cell number on record. Of those 11,736 students, 97 percent received the message; 340 students were not reached,” Director of College Safety Steve Corich said. “(Approximately) 686 employees were texted out of 2660 total employees, and only 673 received the text.”

The decision of adopting the alert system was not sparked by any immediate safety concerns, according to Pan.

“We haven’t done anything like this before. This is our first time that we are trying to test the system. I cannot tell you why it was decided,” Pan said.

“The colleges have a safety committee that is also in charge of the emergency response team. I believe the decision was made by the committee. There wasn’t an event or safety concerns that pre-amped this alert system trial,” Pan said.

For students who didn’t receive a text message, updating personal information will allow them to receive text message alerts in the future.

“There are a couple of ways that students information can be updated. You can do a change of address and personal information online through your my.maricopa account. Or, students can update information by filling out a form and giving it to the registrar office in-person or online,” Pan said.

“We clearly, as a system, need to figure out how to get information out to students and employees. We need to make sure that every time we change our numbers that we get into the habit of updating it online,” Pan said.

For students who are hesitant to hand out their cell phone number, Pan assures them that it is only for emergencies.

“We are not going to use your number to do sales or anything else. This is strictly for emergencies. We don’t have the means to even do that. I don’t think we want to have that info for any other reason,” Pan said.

Overall, Corich believed that the texting system should not be the only method of alerting students as results could be ideal.

“I think the main point is that this SMS texting system has a lot of bugs in it and should not be too heavily relied upon. We consider it a secondary tool and are working to make it as effective as it can be,” Corich said.

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These are archived stories from Mesa Legend editions before Fall 2018. See article for corresponding author.

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