PSU campaigns to increase enrollment in alert system

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Emma Stocker, PSU's assistant director of emergency management, navigates the blackboard interface for sending PSU Alert messages. Miles Sanguinetti/PSU Vanguard

The Portland State alert system is the university’s foremost way to inform students and staff of threats on campus like out-of-control fires, inclement weather and potentially dangerous individuals in the area. With a test of the alert system scheduled at 9:50 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 20 and enrollment in the system’s text message component numbering at less than 10,000 people, university officials are launching a campaign to get more students signed up.

Aside from text messages, the system’s different avenues of communication include emails, website and social media posts, explained Emma Stocker, PSU’s assistant director of emergency management.


A PSU administrator and CPSO officer explains what the alert system is and how it works. Miles Sanguinetti/PSU Vanguard

“That system is launched by CPSO dispatch at the request of a CPSO staff [member] in the field that might see something underway that needs to be communicated broadly to campus,” Stocker said.

While the alert system automatically sends messages to all pdx.edu email accounts, students must use Banweb to opt in and have alerts sent to their phones or personal email accounts, Stocker added.

“Text message is really the most efficient—the quickest—way we have to get information out to the campus community,” Stocker said. “Knowing that that’s optional and knowing that people have to take that extra step to go into the Banweb page to register, [is why] we are doing this campaign.”

Winter weather closures are among the most common uses of the system, according to Stocker. While staff members at PSU try to send out an alert for university closures by 6:00 a.m., this has failed to reach a significant segment of the student population in the past, sometimes because commuters did not check their emails for alerts and were not signed up to receive text messages, she added.

“I started here at PSU as the assistant director of emergency management in April,” Stocker said. “When I looked at all the things that I could do to help increase the preparedness on campus, that was the number one thing on my list: to ensure that we have a way to communicate with the campus.”

The alert system gives campus safety staff members a vital way to issue alerts, information and updates on dangerous situations, according to Joe Schilling, a campus police sergeant at CPSO.

“Let’s say a building was actually on fire,” Schilling said. “So obviously we’d get that PSU alert out that tells folks to evacuate the building, go to the muster spots and then to avoid the area while the fire apparatus and public safety folks are in there taking care of the situation.”

Quickly spreading helpful information about dangers like fires can help keep unaffected areas of campus open as well, he added.

“It just gives us a really good tool to get information to people so they can make learned decisions about what they want to do in relation to their own safety,” Schilling said.

To learn more about the PSU Alert System visit pdx.edu/emergency-management/. To sign up, login to the student banweb at my.pdx.edu/.

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