Some students walked out the door to frozen car doors and a deserted campus Friday morning. Students registered with the ACU Alert system, however, were still snug in bed – they’d received a text message around 6:30 a.m. letting them know classes were delayed until 10 that morning.
The ACU Police Department launched the ACU Alert system in August 2007. It began as an emergency weather notification system, but Police Chief Jimmy Ellison said the shooting at Virginia Tech heightened the need for such notifications.
And they work. The text messages and the e-mails are always timely and pertinent to students’ lives. Instead of dragging ourselves from beneath our warm sheets to check the weather report, we can simply roll over and check our cell phones.
Although the alerts are usually for bad weather, they would be just as essential in the case of a violent crime or other threat. If, for example, someone were to open fire in the McGlothlin Campus Center – a terrible but real possibility – students would receive a text message almost immediately warning them of the situation and advising them on how to proceed. Often, such crises happen quickly and a quick response can help save lives and prevent chaos.
Unfortunately, most students have a hard time believing a tragedy such as that at Virginia Tech could occur in Abilene. That skepticism is partly to blame for the low number of students and faculty registered for ACU Alerts.
Ellison said many students are also hesitant to register for the alerts because of a misguided belief they’ll receive hundreds of useless text messages. This isn’t the case. ACUPD uses extreme discretion, sending alerts only in emergency situations.
“In the event of a real and significant emergency on campus, it’s going to be a vital tool,” Ellison said.
The efficiency and the convenience of the system would all be for naught, however, if not for one key detail: The ACU Alert system is free.
College students are masters of frugality, and we’re usually skilled in deciding what we can and can’t live without. In this case, though, students have no reason not to sign up. It doesn’t cost anything except the minute or two it takes to register, and it could save you hours of pain and frustration later.
Don’t wait until ice is crusting on your windows to consider registering. Certainly don’t wait until tragedy strikes.