NKU Police find new confidence in alert system and social media

With the recent shooting at Miami University, Oxford, NKU police are combining innovative technology and strategic planning to deliver a unique way of protecting its students from similar situations.

NKU has partnered with Rave Mobile Safety to create Norse Alert, which uses voice and text messaging systems to send emergency alerts to its subscribers in a short amount of time according to NKU Police Chief Jason Willis.

NKU’s old alert system, First Alert, was able to handle the size of its subscribers in 2009, but ran into some trouble when the number of subscribers increased.

“It was okay for what [NKU] were using it for in 2009,” Willis said. “But what I found was that it wasn’t as robust as what we needed, and it wasn’t as reliable.”

Willis said that when using First Alert some text message alerts would not reach subscribers due to the amount of network interference.

“There was a time when a tornado was coming through and we sent out an alert, there was so much traffic with people texting each other, some people got it and some people didn’t,” Willis said.

Since then, NKU has implemented an emergency tool app, iNKU, designed to be utilized by students in the case of an emergency.

There is a page for personal safety tips, what to do during different emergencies and a list of emergency contact numbers.

A feature on the iNKU app is the Alert the Norse.

By using this feature, “Community members can send messages to the police – crime tips, safety issues, etc.” Willis said.

According to Willis the service is not monitored 24 hours a day, but he does keep a close eye on the app’s messages as they come directly to his phone.

Willis said that Norse Alert is still the main method that NKU police use to communicate immediately or soon after the event of an emergency.

One reason Norse Alert is the main method for alerting NKU’s students is the integration of Facebook and Twitter, allowing NKU police to reach students via different social media platforms.

According to a study conducted by the University at Buffalo School of Management, the widespread popularity of social media and associated mobile apps enables campus authorities to instantly reach a large percentage of students to provide timely and accurate information during crisis situations.

Chief Willis feels that the more mediums in which NKU can alert its community the better.

“Facebook and Twitter are obviously widely used and popular with our community members, especially students,” Willis said. “So social media has become a critical medium to communicate.”

NKU’s social media alerting system is not the only safety measure that has been updated recently.  Specific numbers have been installed above doors throughout campus, corresponding to a geographical location to police.

According to Willis, this method is recommended by the Department of Homeland Security Emergency Management Response Plan.

The purpose of these specially devised numbers is to minimize information response.

“It’s much easier and quicker for someone to just give us the corresponding number as they’re exiting a building than for them to try to guess exactly, geographically, where they are located,” Willis said.

Once located, NKU police respond immediately.

Chief Willis said that he could not reveal the methods of engaging a shooter, if one was present on NKU’s campus. But he did assure The Northerner reporters that NKU police have been training extensively for these types of situations.

“After the Sandy Hook incident, NKU received a lot more requests for training in the chance of an on-campus shooter,” Willis said. “We are prepared.”