UNCW students question value of school's emergency alert system - WSFX - FOX Wilmington, NC

UNCW students question value of school's emergency alert system

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Dillard's article, entitled "Gunman Paranoia" Dillard's article, entitled "Gunman Paranoia"

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Virginia Tech officials locked down the campus in Blacksburg Thursday by using a high-tech alert system to warn students and faculty members to stay indoors.

UNCW has a similar system in place, and in light of the shootings, WECT spoke with both its students and school officials on how effective that system is.

UNCW text messages, calls and emails students if there's a threat to their safety, and the system has been utilized twice in just the past month.

"I believe we are doing an excellent job of [using the system]," said UNCW Officer Todd Curry. "We are getting information out to students; giving them as much leeway, as much time as we can to make [so that they] can make the best safety decisions for themselves."

But one student is expressing concerns that students may start to ignore these warnings.

In a recent opinion editorial in the campus newspaper, The Seahawk, Eliza Dillard questioned the system. She's concerned that students will stop paying attention to the messages, especially following some recent false alarms.

East Carolina University was also locked down after a student with an umbrella was mistaken for a student with a gun, and last weekend, UNCW students got text messages, phone calls and emails about a gunman close to campus.

As it turned out, the UNCW threat was really a hunter returning home from a trip.

Dillard hopes that students don't start to tune out.

"You question how valid [the alerts] are after that situation," she said. "It's like, should I actually be worried about this, or is this a man returning from a hunting trip?"

Still, Curry thinks communicating too much beats not communicating enough. "I think the thing is, we need to give [students] good information and update them," he said.

All students and faculty with a UNCW email address get an alert from campus police if something happens on campus, but the phone and text message service is voluntary.

About 8,000 students have signed up to receive those alerts.

Copyright 2011 WECT. All rights reserved.

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