Staying Alert on Campus

By Raleigh Basinger

Youngstown State University changed their emergency alert system from YSU Alert to PenguinAlert, a system through Rave Mobile Safety to improve student safety on campus.

Rave Mobile Safety is a safety software company that covers about 1,400 higher education facilities. Ron Cole, YSU public information officer, said the change increases the reliability and the effectiveness of the system.

“We were able to find another provider that is used in universities across the nation, including Ohio State,” Cole said.

PenguinAlert allows the YSU police department to communicate with people quickly in the event of an emergency on campus through email and text message, he said.

Shawn Varso, YSU interim police chief, said the new system is a large improvement.

“YSU Alert would take upwards to about 20 to 30 minutes for all of the messages to go out,” Varso said. “With Rave, the messages go out much faster.”

The old system had other safety concerns that are now recognized, Varso said.

“The old system had repeated system outages and we found out that with the outages, we can’t get our messages out,” Varso said. “Anything that gets individual messages out improves on safety.”

All students are automatically signed up with PenguinAlert through their YSU email. In order to receive text messages, they must go to penguin alert and sign up with their cell phone. Cole encourages all students to do so.

“If there is an emergency on campus … the most direct way [to communicate] with you individually is by the way of a text message,” Cole said.

Anonymous reports can be made by calling 844-208-1697 or visiting Shannon Tirone, assistant vice president of University Relations, said it is important for students and faculty to report issues if they arise.

“If you see something that is happening on campus that either draws your attention or you think is out of the ordinary, [or] you want to make sure attention is given to something, then you should call,” Tirone said.

Cole said they are trying to spread the word of PenguinAlert as much as possible.

“We tried to publicize as much as we can at our orientation sessions,” Cole said. “We have had some signage, and we have had some emails going out on campus to remind students to go and sign up for this.”

Currently not many students have signed up for the new system through their cell phones, Varso said.

“We were planning on doing some advertisement in the future to get people to sign up for it,” Varso said. “… along with marketing and communications to increase the number of people who are signing up for the text messages.”

PenguinAlert has the same features as YSU Alert, but there are potential features that are being considered, Cole said.

“We are looking at social media and some other possible communication avenues, but we haven’t launched those yet,” Cole said.