UWO unveils emergency alert system

Josh Lehner, Staff Writer

A new emergency communication system broadcasts alerts on UW Oshkosh computers by taking over the screen until the user acknowledges the message.

The alert appears on all UWO-owned computers used in classrooms, labs and workplaces, but it won’t affect students’ personal computers.

Acting Police Chief Chris Tarmann said that the new alert feature functions as an extension of the Titan Alert system, which sends notifications via email and text message.

“I’ve heard from professors over the years that some students are not allowed to have their phones out in the classroom, so a text notification or a push notification wouldn’t reach those students,” he said. “We also moved away from the digital clock boards being utilized as an emergency communication method, so this style of communication is a great way to keep strong communications across the three campuses.”

Unlike Titan Alerts, the desktop emergency system will be reserved for high-level risks, including severe weather warnings, building fires, active shooter incidents, gas leaks and other imminent threats.

UWO Police Lt. Greg Weitz said that the new system uses student-provided information to bolster Titan Alert, email and social media notifications.

“Anyone using a UWO-owned computer has the ability to connect to the police department through the UWO Mobile icon and provide real-time incident information,” he said. “Similar to a Titan Alert, desktop notifications are a message generated from the police department that displays on UWO computers.”

This addition to UWO’s emergency system comes on the heels of the Michigan State University mass shooting, which left three students dead and five injured.

Weitz said that one of the best prevention methods is attempting to identify people who may pose a risk.

“Members of leadership in various departments on campus constantly work together to exchange information on potential threats, assess the information and determine the necessary follow-up steps in an effort to keep these tragic incidents from happening in the first place,” he said.

UWO already provides Active Threat Preparedness training, the requests for which Weitz said typically increase after an event like the MSU shooting.

“Active Threat Preparedness training basically involves providing trainees with information on active threat statistics, the importance of sharing information, strategies for increasing awareness and strategies for staying safe in order to improve your chances of surviving an event like this,” he said. “The more community members that have these skills, the better chance we have of identifying potential threats before they become an active threat incident.”

Weitz said that more university departments and groups are starting to acknowledge the training, including the community service officers a partnership between the UWO police department and the Department of Resident Life, which manages the campus residence halls.

“At the start of the last two or three semesters, at the request of the Department of Residence Life, many of the newly hired community advisers (who work security stations in all residence halls) received training,” he said. “We are also looking at making this a mandatory training each fall for our community service officers.”

Active Threat Preparedness training sessions focusing on emergency practices, awareness and steps for staying safe will be held in the coming days for faculty and students: one on Feb. 24 from 9:30-11 a.m. and another on Feb. 28 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Both sessions will be held in Sage Hall room 1214. Check your school email to sign up.