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HawkAlert recipients alarmed by late-night messages

BY JORDYN REILAND | NOVEMBER 16, 2011 7:20 AM

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University of Iowa students, their parents, and faculty were alarmed when their evening activities were interrupted by a possible threat on campus Monday evening.

The HawkAlert, issued by UI police, said police were looking for a man reported to have a weapon near campus. The alert instructed the recipients to stay inside until further notice.

And many who received the alert — via text, phone, or email — said they were concerned at the vague and untimely information.

"At first I was really freaked out and confused because I was done with a midterm, and I was downtown at Mesa," said UI freshman Danijel Pejkanovic. "I wasn't sure where the suspect was because the alert was vague."

Pejkanovic said he felt panicked after receiving the alert and asked the Mesa pizza-delivery guy for a ride back to his residence in Daum.

Parents of students at the UI who received the HawkAlert said they were startled by the late-night call.

UI parent Laura Renault of Hubbard, Iowa, said she didn't pick up the phone when she first received a call from an unknown number. Renault said the other two alerts she received were identified as the UI on her caller ID.

"If my daughter had not called me before, and I had just gotten the two alerts, I would have been even more confused," Renault said.

Others who received the alert felt inundated by the numerous media and consecutive alerts.

Some faculty received up to four alerts over approximately a three-hour span.

"I was woken up four times," said Mary Clark, a UI professor of nursing. "It's good to alert someone, but four calls may be a little much."

Clark, however, said she approved of the alert system and felt officials provided the appropriate amount of information in the alert.

"You don't want students to take a risk because you tell them the suspect is somewhere specific on campus," Clark said. "Students are more likely to think they are in less danger if they are not close to where the alleged suspect is."

UI faculty, staff, and students along with their parents are able to sign up to receive HawkAlerts.

UI freshman Danielle Tiernan said she wasn't aware of the time between the first report and the HawkAlert.

"My parents got a call, but they were not awake, and they left a message on the voice mail," she said.

The Iowa City police received a call at 9:08 p.m. A HawkAlert was not sent out until an hour and a half later.

And though UI police said they did not receive word of the threat until 10:10 p.m., UI senior Kelsey Defenbaugh said the UI should have sent out the information sooner.

"If that's the whole point of it," Defenbaugh said. "It's not useful if you get it after the fact."


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