CatAlert to make UVM safer

It’s been almost a year since the fatal school shooting when 32 students were killed and dozens more were injured by a student shooter on Virginia Tech’s campus. Campuses across the nation have decided to implement emergency notification systems due to this tragedy. UVM has created an emergency alert system known as CatAlert in the event that a similar emergency like that would happen. CatAlert’s goal is to help keep UVM as informed and safe as possible during emergency situations, according to the UVM CatAlert Web site. “CatAlert was implemented so that UVM could communicate through a number of methods/means in the event of an emergency,” Gary Margolis, chief of police, said. “I was the project manager and worked closely with David Todd, UVM chief information officer, and his staff to identify vendors, negotiate the contract and manage the installation.” Annie Stevens, co-chair of the Emergency Operations Group worked with Margolis, Todd and other University members to decide the most effective security system to be implemented on UVM’s campus. “The Emergency Operations Group for the campus began researching immediate notification systems last spring – with much student involvement,” Stevens said. Stevens was involved in presenting different security systems to the emergency operations group to see how they would best reach out to students and other members of campus and from this CatAlert was created. Santina Leporati, a senior at UVM heard about CatAlert from a teacher in one of her classes and registered her information when she received the CatAlert e-mail, she said. “You can go online and register your information on the database so that when something happens you get the alert, Leporati said. “You can decide if you want it by e-mail, text message or phone.” An email was sent out campus-wide requesting all University members including students, faculty and staff to register their information on the Web site. UVM sophomore Tori Gwin lives in the Wing/Davis/Wilks complex and has not yet heard of CatAlert. “I usually delete e-mails if I don’t think they are important so if we received this by e-mail I must have deleted it,” Gwin said. On the Web site you will find instructions for adding and maintaining your emergency contact information in order to receive the CatAlert emergency notification. This contact information will only be used in emergency situations in which timely notification is critical, according to the CatAlert Web site. “I think this seems like a effective way to alert the campus in case of an emergency like Virginia Tech,” Leporati said. “I remember watching the news on the day of the Virginia Tech tragedy and thought how easy it would be for something like that to happen on our campus and how there was no way for us to be notified if it did” she said. “I hope there’s never a reason for them to have to execute the system but it’s good to know it’s there as a resource,” Ashley Fowler, resident advisor and senior at UVM said. The most important thing with this is that if something does happen on campus it will reduce chaos and we will know what to do immediately, she said. So far, the tests that have been implemented seem to indicate that the system will be effective. There is still a need to get more people signed up and get the word out about the service, Stevens said.