WIU emergency alert system relies on student resident assistants

By Jaycie Doerr, News3 Assistant Executive Producer & WC Editor-in-Chief

MACOMB, IL (NEWS3 & WC) – Western Illinois University (WIU) uses an emergency alert system to communicate with their students. This system can push messages to students via email, text, or phone call. However, when it comes to students living on campus, the University Housing and Dining Services (UHDS) does not utilize this alert system for their residents.

Alisha Looney, Interim Assistant Vice President of University Communication, Marketing, and Media Relations explained the alert system and how WIU utilizes it.

“Our emergency alert system allows us to instantaneously communicate via text message, email and phone call if the students are in danger,” Looney said. “If the students are not in immediate danger, we will use that to send out an email.”

Jessica Butcher, Director of Student Life, said that all the residence halls at WIU have a sound system to give direct messages to students in an emergency, such as a storm siren or a shelter-in-place order. However, she said the main form of communication with residents is their resident assistants.

“We rely on our people to communicate,” Butcher said. “Each resident assistant might have a little different line of communication with their floor.”

Student and Thompson Hall resident Jace Clayes talked about how his resident assistant communicated during a fire evacuation that occurred in January 2023. He said rumors circled among residents before anything was told to them about the evacuation.

“[It took] about an hour before our RAs told us it would be a long time,” Clayes said.

He said the fire alarms went off around 10 p.m. and residents were not allowed back in the building until around 3:30 a.m.

Butcher said most resident assistance use group chats to communicate with their floors, using apps like Groupme. All resident assistants at WIU are undergraduate students hired by UHDS for this position.

When asked if UHDS planned to update to a digital system, like the one used by Looney’s department, Butcher replied there was no accurate way to keep an accurate record of students’ contact information.

“As soon as you put a phone number in, then somebody changes the number,” Butcher said.

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