DPS report fails to reach all students

While sitting in her apartment Sunday night, Katie Williams, a junior majoring in philosophy, politics and law, panicked when her roommate told her about a shooting on 24th Street — where her boyfriend lives.

“My heart stopped when I heard that someone I cared about could be in danger,” Williams said. “It truly scared me a lot.”

Though DPS later determined the reporting shooting incident to be an act of vandalism by a BB gun or rock, several students complained about not receiving a message from Trojans Alert, USC’s emergency warning system.

A Trojans Alert message was sent to students at 7:24 p.m. reporting an alleged shooting that occurred on 1155 W. 24th St. on Sunday night at approximately 7 p.m. However, an additional Trojans Alert was sent at approximately 7:35 p.m.

But Williams felt a greater concern. Despite signing up for Trojans Alert as a freshman and receiving texts that year, she did not immediately get the message.

“I don’t understand how USC does so much other work to keep us safe, but cannot get this right,” Williams said. “It seems odd to me that I can’t get a simple text message while I’m a student here.”

DPS Capt. David Carlisle said the Trojans Alert system is functioning well and students most likely did not receive the messages because of human error.

The department has been using Trojans Alert since the 2006-07 school year and, as of November 2012, more than 37,000 students are registered for the emergency system. The system is open to anyone who signs up for it, regardless of relation to the university.

“All students who have registered for Trojans Alert should have received an alert,” Carlisle said. “If a person has changed their phone number, carrier, email address or [if] their inbox is full, they may not receive the alerts.”

Carlisle also pointed out errors in data entry as a possible cause and emphasized the importance of entering information into the system carefully and accurately.

“It is important that all users make sure the information they submitted when registering for TrojansAlert is kept current,” Carlisle said.

Trojans Alert is one of many sources of information students, faculty and staff can use in an emergency.

“There are a variety of sources for alerting the campus to crime,” Carlisle said. “As an example, crimes that constitute an ongoing threat to students, such as a robbery where the suspect has not been caught, are publicized through a crime alert. This is most often in the form of an email.”

Carlisle said Trojans Alert is the best method for accessing information in urgent situations.

“We strongly encourage all students, faculty and staff to register for Trojans Alert,” Carlisle said. “It is the best option available for staying informed in the event of an emergency.”

Carlisle did note, however, that the necessary rapid response of Trojans Alert could sacrifice accuracy.

“Several weeks ago, DPS distributed a Trojans Alert after a person reported being shot at near Exposition Boulevard and Vermont Avenue,” Carlisle said. “However, as we investigated, we determined that the shots were actually a disabled car nearby that was backfiring.”

Students had varying opinions on Trojans Alerts. Anish Patil, a graduate student in the electrical engineering program, believes the process needs to be streamlined.

“When there was a robbery on campus, I actually found out through a meme on Facebook,” Patil said. “I had a phone number registered but I didn’t know where, and when I changed my phone number but didn’t know where.”

Meanwhile, Daniel Garrido, a sophomore majoring in fine arts, said not getting the text didn’t bother him.

“To tell you the truth, I hardly ever pay attention to the alerts. For me, [Trojans Alert] is good to have for students, but it does not bother me whether I get the alerts [or not],” Garrido said.

Some expressed surprise that there were students not receiving the Trojans Alert. Chelsey Christensen, a senior majoring in psychology, said she has not had any problems since signing up for the service.

“I heard about [the reported shooting] through Trojans Alert,” Christensen said. “It’s really interesting that [students] did not get the Trojans Alert because I get them all the time … like four times in an incident. I think it’s important that people know what is going on around them.”

After last night’s scare, Williams signed up for Trojans Alert for a second time.

“I just hope I get the alerts now, “ she said. “I don’t want to think about what would happen if a serious incident happened near me and I didn’t get the text.”