Like clockwork each month, students receive a text, an email and hear sirens echoing across campus for the monthly emergency communications systems test. While this is a routine procedure, there are many reasons why it is necessary, said David Carter, chief of the UT Police Department.
UTPD uses the emergency notification system to send text messages to students during urgent situations to inform students of actions they should take. They also use email and social media to spread information after an incident.
“The challenge for police in general … is that we get out critical information that helps our community respond to circumstances when something is going on,” Carter said.
Carter has been UTPD chief since 2013, and since then he said they have strengthened their communication systems and connected with the UT community on social media.
“People rely on social media more than ever before in terms of getting information, so that is always something the police have been working on,” Carter said.
Cruz Zamora, international relations and global studies sophomore, said he always checks the messages he gets from the emergency notification system. He said he pays attention to UTPD’s notifications because they contain helpful information, and he said he understands the importance of the monthly tests.
“I think the (monthly alert tests are) good because it shows that (UTPD is) willing to practice and keep us aware of everything that is going on and could happen,”
UTPD uses different platforms to communicate different types of incidents. Carter said for emergencies they send out instructions for students through text message. For incidents that have been handled, they use social media and email.
“(Distinguishing) when to use one media format over the other depends on whether you as an individual need to take immediate action to protect yourself,”
Carter said he believes the system showed its value last Friday when there was a robbery at the Target on Guadalupe Street. After UTPD sent out a text warning students about the robbery, Carter said a witness saw the suspect and called UTPD, and they were able to arrest the suspect.
“An engaged community plays a big, important role in terms of getting information out,” Carter said. “We can’t police the University of Texas and the areas around it without the support and active involvement of all of our students and
Chemical engineering sophomore Teresa Soisson said when she sees an incident notification on her phone, she isn’t sure what to do in response to it. Soisson said she wishes there were clearer instructions along with
“It just says avoid that area, but it doesn’t tell you what to do if you are already in that area,”
Carter said they also send out alerts for incidents happening off campus that could affect students walking home because student’s safety is a top priority.
“(It’s important to) make the right call and get the message out quickly to the right people so that action can be taken if it’s needed,” Carter said.