UK Alert steps forward with system upgrades

Editorial by Kernel Staff

For campus safety, the UK Office of Emergency Management’s UK Alert update is a step forward in the right direction.

Beginning Tuesday evening, people of the UK community began receiving e-mails letting them know of the change: After three and a half years operating as an opt-in system, the UK Alert will now be an opt-out system.

All UK students, faculty and staff with registered UK e-mail accounts will now automatically be put into the system to receive UK Alerts through their e-mails, according to an Aug. 25 Kernel article.

In the Aug. 25 Kernel article, Christy Giles, director of the Office of Emergency Management, said the change was made after the department looked at other schools’ systems and found the trend to be opt-out.

Two schools with an opt-out e-mail system include the University of Florida and the University of Louisville.

At the University of Florida, alerts are sent through blast e-mails to students, faculty and staff through their UF e-mail accounts, according to UF’s Emergency Management website. UF students are also automatically enrolled in the system through the cell phone number they give during course registration, according to the website.

According to the U of L Alert System website, to receive alerts by phone, a sign up is required, however, all U of L e-mail accounts will automatically receive alerts.

Although UK is behind several schools in the opt-out alert system, it is also ahead of some. One benchmark school example is Ohio State University.

According to a March 7 article in the Lantern, OSU’s student paper, the Department of Public Safety at OSU has used an opt-in system for the last four years. With a campus of more than 50,000 students, only 2,633 were registered to receive the e-mail alerts as of March 7. According to the Department of Public Safety’s website, students, faculty and staff must register to receive crime alerts.

The University of Georgia also requires registration through its UGA MyID to receive notifications to e-mail addresses and phones, according to the UGA Office of Security and Emergency Preparedness website.

Although UK has done well in switching to an opt-out system when it could, people know registration was not the only problem with the previous system. Even when those registered received the alerts, those alerts were not always timely, leaving room for not only confusion, but also safety problems.

According to March 8 and April 14 Kernel articles, at least two instances existed when UK Alerts were sent more than 30 minutes after the robberies were reported — and one of those was an armed robbery. Students in the area where the robbery occurred (behind Cooperstown Apartments) could have been victims to the same crime because of the late alert.

UK has done well in taking this positive change to automatically register all UK e-mails to receive the alerts, but the Office of Emergency Management and UK Police still need to work on getting the alerts out as soon as possible for the new system to be completely effective.