Two of Iowa’s three public universities have launched emergency notification systems for students, staff and faculty, though University of Northern Iowa officials say their system won’t be ready to launch until February. UNI spokesman Jim O’Connor says the "UNI Alert" system will send voice, e-mail and text messages to the entire campus community within 20 minutes.
O’Connor says the system will be used to notify everyone of anything that’s out of the norm, from severe weather to a hazardous materials spill to an intruder on campus. It will also integrate the university’s Internet home page and a campus-wide loudspeaker system. The shootings at Virginia Tech last April that left 32 people dead prompted many universities nationwide to rethink their emergency response systems.
O’Connor says U-N-I is confident in its security. He says: "We’ve had a system in place here at UNI for quite a long time that’s a pretty well-oiled machine. What this new system will do is add to our capability. This will add the ability to text message, add the ability to mass e-mail and voicemail messages to people in a much faster turnaround then we had before."
The Iowa Board of Regents recently gave campus security at the state’s public universities the okay to carry firearms. Officers at Iowa and Iowa State are already packing guns but UNI hasn’t yet followed suit. O’Connor says that’s in the works.
He says: "The university is getting ready to arm its officers but we want to make sure we have all the processes in place for review of use and use of force, that sort of thing, to make sure all of our policies and practices are up to date and ready to go so we can do it seamlessly." No date has been set for UNI campus police to start carrying guns, though O’Connor says it should be in the "next month or so."