Campus Alerts System Falters For Smartphones During Emergency, But Works Fine On Digital Signs

October 27, 2022 by Dave Haynes

Here’s an interesting real-world counter-argument to those people who suggest digital signs aren’t necessary when everyone is walking around with connected smartphones – a campus safety alert that went out on digital signage screens as planned, but not to all phones with the safety alerts app.

The good news is two-fold:

  1. most importantly, no one was hurt and it may have been a false sighting;
  2. the integration between an alerts system and whatever CMS platform the U of C uses evidently worked well.

This is from the news wing of the CBC – the Canadian version of the BBC:

The University of Calgary’s emergency alert system is under scrutiny after reports of a knife-wielding man on campus failed to reach everyone who had access to the app. Calgary police said they’ve found no victims, witnesses or an offender following multiple stabbing reports that had officers racing to the University of Calgary on Tuesday night.

Police said that shortly before 8:30 p.m., they were called to the U of C campus for multiple reports of an unknown man stabbing several people. Upon arrival, they said officers canvassed the campus, and were unable to locate any victims or witnesses to corroborate the incident, nor any evidence that an offender was involved. The reports, however, triggered a campus-wide emergency alert that didn’t work as planned.

A student who said he was on campus at the time told CBC News that the university’s alert system faltered when it failed to reach everyone who had access to the app. The situation caused confusion, said Arhaam Mukati, who was studying at the Taylor Family Digital Library when things unfolded.

Some students were running to their dorms while others looked clueless. He said he was only made aware of the situation because he was at a desktop computer. The majority of people around him, Mukati said, pointed toward their screens, which had a message from the university’s emergency alert system stating there was a person with a weapon on campus. “Get out, hide, or fight. Follow police direction,” read a part of the message. 

A layered approach with built-in redundancies makes sense, and this is a good example of that. If one communications method fails, there are other means of reaching people with alerts.

Leave a comment