New desktop application for emergency notifications

CSUN has just installed a new desktop application to all campus PCs, with Macs soon to follow.

Alertus is a warning system that relays immediate emergency messages to students via pop-up alerts on campus computers.

CSUN already has an existing warning system that notifies students of an emergency via mobile phone and email. However, some students may not own a cell phone or have it readily available.

Kit Espinosa, CSUN emergency management and preparedness coordinator, explained that more than one person can deploy messages. Many have been trained to use Alertus to get the message quickly to students, including faculty members in different departments, campus police and IT.

“We would only use the system for critical emergencies,” Espinosa said.  She estimated only one to three alerts of this nature have been sent via the existing warning system last year. CSUN PD sent an alert which reported five cases of sexual battery on August 27, 2013.

Espinosa also said another feature is that a message can be sent from home. She explained that alerts can be deployed by department personnel using a mobile phone or personal device to provide added efficiency and timeliness of the message.

Although CSUN is taking steps to improve safety measures, it isn’t the first university to use the emergency system.

Jamie Underwood, an employee at Alertus, said almost 500 higher education campuses are now using the system including Purdue University, Azusa Pacific University, CSU San Marcos (CSUSM) and Westmont College.

“CSUSM has used the system twice this year, once to evacuate the campus due to local wildfires and once to lockdown the campus due to a potential on-site gunman threat,” Underwood said.

CSUN has had a few similar scares, including a 2011 alleged student gunman and another suspected gunman sighting in 2013.

Underwood said there is a functionality that allows students to download the app to their personal devices and sync to the university alert system. CSUN students will have to wait to find out if the university will allow this download in the future.

“The more ways we have of sending notifications, the more ways we can help to alert the students, the better we are,” Espinosa said.

Karen Rivas, senior, said the new system will be an improvement.

“I think it’s more reliable from a school computer,” she said. Rivas said in the past some students and teachers would get alerts and others complained of not getting them.

“Now, everyone would get it and be aware that there’s a threat,” Rivas said.

Alejandra Barajas, freshman, said the new system will be more helpful.

“I don’t like the phone calls because I won’t pick up,” Barajas said.