Get more users, working sign-ups for UK Alert system

Campus safety got a boost Monday when UK finally launched its new emergency alert system, but efforts to make the university more secure should not stop there.

Students, faculty, staff and anyone else connected to UK can now sign up with UK Alert ( to receive text messages, e-mails, faxes or phone calls in case of a campus emergency, President Lee Todd announced in a campus-wide e-mail Monday.

Todd’s e-mail generated quite a response: About 14,000 people tried to sign up within an hour of the system going live, the Kernel reported yesterday. Unfortunately, the massive influx of traffic slowed down the Web site for sign-ups, and only 2,634 succeeded in making an account as of Monday evening. Most, but not all, of those users were able to actually enter contact information.

Clearly, there is a high level of interest in the alert system — or at least in the four iPhones that are being raffled off as prizes for those who register — but UK needs to make sure the people who couldn’t access the Web site don’t get discouraged or forget about it.

In the next few days, emergency management officials should send another e-mail to members of the university community reminding them to sign up for UK Alert. This time, however, they should either prepare the Web server for a traffic spike or stagger the e-mails so that not everyone tries to register at once.

Difficulties in the launch may have caused some users to fear that the alerts themselves will be similarly slow or problematic. To ease these doubts, campus officials should test the system once a significant number of community members have signed up.

Moreover, UK needs to make sure someone in each classroom and residence hall is registered to receive messages from UK Alert. The best way to accomplish this would be to require professors, teaching assistants and resident advisers to sign up for the system — which would also offset the problem of whether forbidding text messaging in class could impede student safety.

Finally, it is incumbent on UK not to use the system for non-urgent situations; it will not be effective if users are not assured that every message they receive from UK Alert demands immediate attention.

The road to launching UK Alert has been rocky, from the implementation delays to Monday’s botched startup. UK’s emergency management staff must make sure these problems do not get in the way of informing the campus about immediate threats.