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Monday, September 27, 2021

Since fall classes ended Dec. 7, UF has used its emergency alert system on two occasions. Both times, the administration was pleased with how quickly text messages were sent to students and employees.

UF administration used the emergency system on Dec. 9 to 10 and on Dec. 20, sending a pair of messages in each incident. A message is first sent to a company that takes the message and distributes it to every wireless carrier. Then, the message is delivered to phones of students and employees registered with the emergency alert system.

Of the four messages delivered in December, the slowest reached the aggregator at 2 minutes, 1 second, said UF Emergency Management Coordinator Kenneth Allen. The fastest message reached it at 1 minute, 52 seconds.

The time represents how long it took for the last message to be sent to the aggregator, not the first one or the average time.

"Looking at it is like looking at a freight train," Allen said. "That time is how long it takes the whole train to pass by, not just the front of the train."

Allen said he is pleased with the delivery times and doesn't expect any major changes to the system. He said the university is always looking to make tweaks. However, the administration won't change its methods in light of the murder-suicide that happened at Virginia Tech last month.

UF has sent 17 messages in the last two years, all of which have been delivered faster than six minutes. The university last changed the emergency alert system in July when the school added InformaCast software, which allows UF to send a message through several platforms, including email, social media and the school's website, at one time.

Previously, an individual message had to be sent to each platform.

Students and employees received a message sent at 11:06 p.m. on Dec. 9 after an attempted rape was reported near the Campus USA Credit Union at 1200 SW Fifth Ave. A separate pair of messages came on Dec. 20 after a shooting was reported in the Stone Quarters apartment complex at 645 NE Waldo Road, which is about 1.6 miles southwest of east campus.

Although the men involved in the shooting had no ties to UF, an emergency message was sent "out of an abundance of caution," said UPD spokesman Maj. Brad Barber. When the shooting was first reported, the department did not know what the shooter was trying to do or where he was going.

In response, UPD surrounded the east campus. The department sent extra officers from the main campus, though two weeks later, Barber couldn't recall how many extra officers were brought in.

To increase your chances of quickly receiving an emergency message, you can follow UF Alert on Facebook and Twitter.

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