Alert system aims to protect USC-Aiken students

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News 12 at 6 o'clock, Oct. 26, 2007

Aiken, S.C. -- Changes are on the way for students at USC-Aiken, and it's an alert system all in the name of safety.

Whether it's a tornado, fire, bomb threat or a shooting similar to the Virginia Tech Massacre, USC-Aiken is trying to be prepared to make sure students and staff are safe. More changes are on the way.

Brett Butler was on the USC-Aiken campus earlier this year when tragedy struck at Virginia Tech.

"It was kind of scary. Everybody didn't know what to do," he says.

That uncertainty led to some changes at the campus. This summer, the school began a text message alert system. To let the students know there's a safety concern and on Monday it's going to get easier to sign up. When you sign onto the student information page, the sign-up site will pop up. But there have been some problems with the alerts.

"We're not sure that in every case we're going to get a message out to folks as quickly as we can," says Tony Ateca, the Assistant Chancellor of Facilities.

That's because not all service providers are sending the message to students. So, we wanted to see how long it would take to get the message out. I signed up for the emergency text message, and within 15 seconds, we got a message.

Earlier this year, a test was sent out without telling the students. It was an accident, but no one complained. Tiffany Coleman signed up for the alert message. She didn't get the text, but no worrying for her.

"I wasn't nervous. I know the campus strives hard to make it a safe campus for us," she says.

Alicia Betts hasn't signed up yet. It's even more difficult for her to know when an emergency is happening because she's a commuting student.

"If I was going to depend on anything, either students or faculty," she says.

More changes are on the way. The school is looking at a backup campus-wide voice alert system and adding more security cameras.

"We want the quickest response possible. We want to be able to make decisions in minutes, rather than hours," says Ateca.

There are 5 command centers on campus: The Convocation Center, The Pickens-Salley House, The Supply and Maintenance Building, The Admissions Office and The Wellness Center.

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