Emergency Alert System evaluation

By Chien-Yu Chen

Now that another campus shooting has happened, it is time to evaluate the emergency alert system we have on campus. Although I do believe an EAS is needed, the current system is pointless and here is the reason and maybe a solution.

The current system sends text messages to cell phones whose numbers are registered to the EAS. From a technical point of view, suppose we want 70 percent of the 53,000 campus members to receive the message, about 36,000 text messages. If the computer system and phone network can handle 20 messages a second, that is 30 minutes to just finish sending the message. Considering other factors like the 911 calls or finding the right person with the authority to send the message; by the time all recipients get the message, the shooter might have already killed himself or herself. Another problem is that this system does not take into account people who can not afford spending 50 dollars a month on a cell phone bill or people who don’t view a cell phone as a necessity to daily life.

The solution might be simple and everyone probably knows about it. Remember how you got summoned into the principal’s office in high school? Broadcasting. The heart of the campus is on roughly four square miles area, so setting up the required system should be cheaper and easier than the current system. If you are worried about the shooter gaining inside information, don’t worry, he or she will be registered with the EAS system, too.

Technology is supposed to save energy and money, and bring comfort to people. I don’t see any of these points addressed. Maybe we have forgotten what technology is all about, as we strive for a high-tech campus or maybe it is just a quick and cheap shot at the grants that are created under the national security tag.