Alert emails meant to prioritize campus safety warnings

In lieu of foreWarn texts, the university police department has looked to emails to inform campus of recent robberies.

The emails, or Timely Warning Alerts, are sent out to notify students, faculty and staff about incidents that represent a serious or continuing threat to the campus, Bradley University Police Department Lt. Troy Eeten said.

“At the beginning of the academic year, we began to send these alerts via email to the campus community to improve our communication with the campus community,” he said. “The use of emergency text messaging is restricted to life-threatening or potentially life-threatening incidents or severe weather.”

The severity of an incident is left to the discretion of the chief of police, Eeten said.

“If an event arises on or off campus, which in the judgment of the chief of university police or his designee constitutes an ongoing threat, a campus-wide warning will be issued,” he said. “A Timely Warning Alert is a means to notify based on the nature of the incident. Previously, these were posted on the website, and we will continue posting the alerts on the BUPD website in addition to email.”

Eeten said variation in communication is important to campus safety.

“The notification system includes text messaging, a telephone hotline, email messaging, public address announcements and the university website,” he said. “The variety of communication tools allows the university to convey urgent information to as many members of the campus community as possible as quickly as possible.”

Eeten said he has been pleased with feedback he has heard about the safety emails.

“The feedback we’ve gotten from students and others in the campus community has been very positive,” he said. “They are appreciative that the university is communicating safety alerts more proactively.”

Some students said the Timely Warning Alert has room for improvement.

“I check my email when I’m around, but if it’s important we need the texts,” junior civil engineering major Karla Blanco said. “I don’t understand why we got an email at 4:30 [p.m.] from something that happened at 10:30 in the morning and was reported at 1:30 [p.m.]”

Junior early childhood education major Jennifer Vorpagel said email may be more reliable.

“Everyone will get their emails,” she said. “I used to get all the foreWarn texts but they never went to my friend’s phone even though she was signed up.”

Vorpagel said receiving an email caused no more alarm than receiving a foreWarn text.

“But I’ve got to be honest,” she said, “I read a lot more of a text than I would an email.”

Student Body President and Resident Advisor for Main Street Commons Tricia Anklan said she was just as surprised to receive the emails as everyone else.

“I think these are more effective so that we don’t get overloaded with information,” she said. “We only get alerted for the ones that are truly time-sensitive, and that way people will still respond to the information. It’s difficult to convey info limited to 160 characters.”

The time lags on these recent alerts happen for a number of reasons, Eeten said.

“Those can range from our notification of a crime to the ongoing investigation to other unforeseen circumstances,” he said.

Eeten said the BUPD will continue to seek out ways to effectively send out warnings.

“We are always willing to consider changes to improve the safety and quality of life for the campus community,” he said.