Officials look to make Hawk Alert more efficient


After the University of Iowa’s Hawk Alert system experienced another technical difficulty on Monday night, officials are trying to make the process more efficient.

That night, after officials received a report of a robbery in the Boyd Law Building neighborhood, a successful Hawk Alert was issued via text messages, emails, and social media. But the University of Iowa website and the Emergency Information link [both through an RSS feed] were essentially incoherent in regards to specifics of the alleged incident.

This particular problem echoes similar issues which have occurred recently — including previous glitches on Oct. 31, June 26, and April 2012, according to The Daily Iowan archives.

The Hawk Alert system requires dispatchers to fill in six different fields on a computer system with specific information regarding the incident. Those include text, telephone, the RSS feed, email, Twitter, and Facebook.

Stephen Pradarelli, the director of University News Services, said the alert, which acts as a “flare gun for the campus community,” can take time to be issued, to ensure the notice is as accurate as possible.

Charles Green, the assistant vice president for the UI police, said dispatchers are required to fill out the various fields, but must also continue with their responsibilities, which include answering phone or radio calls.

“One large concern is the dispatchers,” Green said. “We’re looking to simplify the number of boxes [they have to fill out] and trying to make the issue or process a lot smaller.”

Green said he is looking to meet with all parties involved to fix the issue sometime in the near future.

“We try to make sure the word gets out within a couple of minutes.”

On Monday evening, the UI website and emergency information link read “REPLACE THIS LINE: with activity/event, location, and (optional) recommended protective action,” but the correct information was updated shortly thereafter.

UI police issued the Hawk Alert notification at 8:40 p.m., which stated two nondescript male suspects reportedly knocked down another man from behind near the Boyd Law Building and stole his coat, which contained two tickets to the Juicy J concert.

The two male suspects fled the scene on a moped toward Kinnick Stadium. The Iowa City police reported the area was checked and no suspects were located, and the victim allegedly received scraped knuckles during the robbery.

There has been no update on the investigation as of Tuesday evening. The Iowa City police has taken over the case because the incident happened on Iowa City property.

An expert in campus-security communication believes sending alerts through numerous platforms is beneficial to getting the message out even if errors do occur.

“A multimodal approach is critical,” said Abigail Boyer, assistant executive director of Programs, Outreach, and Communications at the Clery Center for Security on Campus. “It will help a message get out through other venues if a certain technology doesn’t work.”

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