Alerted to a Very Grateful State of Annoyance

The Fordham Emergency Alert System Needs More Than a Little Work


Published: October 16, 2008

Nothing makes you feel more popular than leaving a class to find two new e-mails, three unread texts and four missed calls, each with a voicemail message! Your smile fades, and you fall off of your cloud shortly after realizing that these messages are all from the same source—and it is not your secret crush. Fordham University recently partnered up with 3N to set up a new emergency alert system, which we first experienced in action on Sept. 15 (see “Fordham Tests New Emergency Alert System” by Ashley Tedesco in the Oct. 2 issue). The system was put to use again on Oct. 3, alerting Fordham College at Lincoln Center students to a practice evacuation drill.

Each time the alert system was used, students noticed a lot of inconsistency in who got notified by this system. I’m not sure if that mistake is on 3N or Fordham’s end, but some students were overfed notices while other students remained in the dark. My Fordham, Yahoo! and AT&T inboxes were filled with alerts on both occasions, and while I definitely appreciated receiving the notices, I found them very overwhelming.

According to an e-mail that John Carrol, assistant vice president of safety & security, sent to all students on Sept. 16, “The system goes down the [student-provided contact] list until it receives confirmation that you received the message. It will start down the list again until the message is acknowledged.”

I completely understand why so many different means of contacting students are used; a student may be in a situation where he or she has access to e-mail and not phone service, or vice versa. The problem, however, is that many students are in class weekday mornings and afternoons and cannot receive or reply promptly to the alerts. Asking for immediate responses and repeating messages over and over at such times is excessive. Actually, it really isn’t effective to repeat the list at all—having more unread text messages does not in any way make me more able to check and reply to those messages.

The same goes for the “alert complete” messages. If we can even consider those to be urgent enough to contact by more than one method of contact, there is no need to require a reply from the student. During my Dance History course after the evacuation drill, students became distracted all over the classroom, buzzing, texting and e-mailing their replies to the system in hopes to prevent excess “resume your normal schedule” notices. The only thing more annoying than the 10 messages at the start of the evacuation drill were the 12 messages after the drill that gave me permission to ignore the first 10.

Despite all the above-mentioned kinks, I am certain that the system will only continue to get more effective and informative. We need to be informed in order to feel secure here, and this alert system can surely offer that option. Carroll has made it clear that improvements will continue to be made to the alert system, and students should see that all of their information is updated on OASIS. I would like to add another suggestion: rather than complaining to other students about how many messages you received, or seeking to remove yourself from the system’s contact lists, take a constructive approach and offer your suggestions to someone who can actually consider your feedback and use it to better the system. Offer your questions, responses and suggestions to John Carroll, x5831 or [email protected].