Emphasizing the Importance of zotALERTS

To the Editor,

It was with concern that I read comments in the April 7th edition of the New U indicating some students were “annoyed” by receiving zotALERT text messages on their phones. That is certainly not the UCI Police Department’s intention. In fact, the Police Department does not send text messages unless leadership believes there is a threat to the campus.

Perhaps some explanation is in order. The zotALERT procedures were developed after the 2007 Virginia Tech tragedy in which 32 people were killed and 17 injured by a campus gunman. Additionally, the federal Jeanne Clery Act mandates that institutes of higher education have various mechanisms in place to immediately notify the campus community in an emergency. The zotALERT system is part of the overall emergency management program that prepares the university to respond to and recover from emergencies.

It is important that everyone take zotALERTs seriously. They provide important information known to authorities at a specific point in time. Additional information is sent as soon as it becomes available. If a specific area of campus is impacted, the message will say so, but some information will be general in nature and applicable to the entire campus. You will be notified once the emergency or dangerous situation has passed. To sign up for zotALERTs, go to http://www.oit.uci.edu/zotalert/

If you receive a zotALERT on your phone, it may advise you of actions to take to keep safe. Examples include:

Secure in place: You might receive this alert in the case of a life-threatening situation on the campus. It means you should go to the nearest room or office and close and lock the door. Turn off interior lights and close office blinds or curtains. Remain quiet and do not answer or open the door until you receive an all-clear text on your phone.

Evacuate: You might receive this alert in the case of a life-threatening situation in your immediate vicinity, such as a fire, chemical spill or other accident. In these cases, you should evacuate to your designated Assembly Area, which is posted inside classes and offices, unless you are directed otherwise. Assembly Area information can also be found at http://www.ehs.uci.edu/em/zonemap.html

Additional campus preparedness information can be found at http://police.uci.edu

We continually review and refine our processes, and we are open to ideas for improvement. Please contact me at awidney@uci.edu to share your thoughts and concerns.

Sincerely,

Anne Widney

Emergency Services Manager