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Some worried Hawk Alert still not glitch free

BY NORA HEATON | APRIL 08, 2010 7:30 AM

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Some warnings sounded too late Wednesday morning, when the University of Iowa Hawk Alert’s annual test experienced a few technological glitches.

The campuswide emergency-notification system sends warning messages to students, faculty, and staff in cases of hazardous materials, severe weather, or violence.

Some from the university reported a delay in receiving Hawk Alerts through UI e-mail — despite the university website’s promise to deliver warnings within 15 minutes of a threat.

UI spokesman Tom Moore said the Hawk Alert system has had timing problems before, especially with e-mail addresses on campus.

The system sends at least one message to every student and faculty or staff member, and as a result, some people receive warnings a few minutes later than others.

UI sophomore Sarah Kosch said she received the alert by university e-mail within two minutes of the 10 a.m. activation time. But going to class all day prevented her from checking her e-mail before 3:30 that afternoon.

“By the time I checked my e-mail, I would have been swept up in a tornado, had there been one,” she said.

That’s why ISIS offers an option for the Hawk Alert to be sent other ways, Moore said.

Hawk Alert can send text messages to mobile phones. It can also deliver voice messages to cell phones, home phones, office phones, and work and/or personal e-mails.

Contact information and preferred methods of alert are adjustable on ISIS. There are also warning sirens scattered throughout the city.

Kosch said she thought she changed her alert settings to include a phone notification. During last year’s alert test, she remembers being notified by phone call and text as well as e-mail.

“After today, I am very wary of the notifications,” she said. “But I think I would hear the sirens, so I would be OK.”

Sophomore Bian Elkhatib said she not only sees the Hawk Alert’s messages on her phone and e-mail, she notices other mobile phones ringing in the area.

“I think even if I didn’t have my phone on me, I’d hopefully be around other people who were getting the alert,” she said.

UI sophomore Sandra Colina said students who are alone at the time of the alert would run a greater risk of not receiving warning of a threat.

“I guess it depends on where you are,” she said.

Students, faculty, and staff receive Hawk Alert tests once every year, when Johnson County officials conduct the test as part of National Severe Weather Awareness Week.



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