Emergency department working out kinks in alert system

Photo by k4dordy courtesy of Creative Commons.

Maria Britos/Staff Writer

The University’s new alert system was put to the test at merely a few weeks old when an active shooter barricaded himself in a nearby apartment complex.

More than 60,000 emails and 50,000 text messages were attempted to send — but less than 10 percent were actually delivered, according to the FIU Alert Incident Report.

Amy Aiken, director of the Department of Emergency Management, said the alert system is still undergoing an upgrade process that began in November 2013.

Screen Shot 2014-01-23 at 1.20.27 PMThe new system is supposed to activate emergency alerts through text messages, email, social media and voice calls to subscribed users as well as speakers and phones throughout all campuses.

But the upgrade has left the alert system inconsistent and unorganized.

The Dec. 8 event in which Miami-Dade County Police responded to an active shooter in a neighborhood south west of Modesto Maidique Campus, some students received multiple alerts and repetitive emails, while others did not receive an alert at all.

Aiken said the reason for multiple alerts was because the old alert system was still activated at the time the new system was launched.

“We decided not to shut down the old system until the new system was fully operational to ensure no outage of service,” said Aiken. “The old method of sending emails has since then been deactivated.”

“I was definitely confused by all the emails, especially the multiple text messages,” said Alex Carrillo, junior biology major. “It wasn’t until I saw a Facebook post that I realized it was an actual emergency.”

Screen Shot 2014-01-23 at 1.21.27 PMUsers received four copies of the same email for the initial alert because FIU Police needed to alert both the Modesto Maidique Campus and the Engineering Campus. When the second alert was sent, most methods of communication were selected unintentionally, including email.

“I received at least four emails saying the same thing in a matter of an hour,” said Elizabeth Cajes, sophomore finance major. “At first, I even thought it was a road construction alert.”

The old system has since been deactivated.

Still — less than 10 percent of alerts were actually delivered. Aiken said this could have been a result of incorrect numbers entered into the system by users.

“Text messages can be lost within the telecommunications carriers’ networks when massive amounts of text messages are sent at one time,” said Aiken.

Despite kinks that need to be worked out determined by the incident report, Aiken said the important part of the occurrence was that the message was effective and communicated properly and that there were no injuries or chaos experienced.

Aiken explained that there were a number of complaints on the multiple emails; however, the department “wanted to keep the old system active until we were certain that the new system was functioning correctly.”

She apologized on behalf of the department.

– news@fiusm.com

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