By SHAQ DAVIS
Pima Community College implemented a new emergency notification system on Aug. 26, part of an ongoing effort to improve security and safety.
The PCCAlert system allows students, parents, employees and members of the community to receive up-to-date text messages about violence, hazards and major disruptions on Pima campuses.
“The safety of everyone at PCC is a top priority for the college,” Chancellor Lee Lambert wrote in a statement sent to students and employees.
Signing up for PCCAlert is a quick two-step process requiring a cell phone. To register, text the word “alerts” to 79516. A confirmation message will be delivered. At any time, users can send the word “stop” to discontinue the alerts.
There is no limit to the number of phones that can be signed up to receive messages. The college does not charge for the service, though cell phone companies may charge a fee for delivering text messages.
“The PCCAlert system is one of many ways that the college can use to communicate during an emergency,” William Ward, vice chancellor for facilities, said in the same statement.
Previously, Pima sent emails to students and employees when an incident occurred, and posted notifications on the PCC website. College officials acknowledged that system was not the best way to notify students and employees of an immediate crisis, such as an active shooter on campus.
“Email actually takes a long time to get a message out to students,” David Bea, executive vice chancellor for administration and finance, said during an April 25 governing board meeting.
“The advantage of a text message is that you can immediately send a message out,” Bea said.
In addition to text message alerts,PCC has implemented other new security measures. They include:
- Adding four new campus police officers, ten community service officers and two new dispatchers.
- Installing panic buttons at high-risk locations on each campus. Activating the panic button sends a signal to PCC Department of Public Safety dispatchers, who are on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Installing in all classrooms new locks that can be locked from the inside by pushing a button.
- Installing a new card-access system on high-risk doors.
- Relocating or adding about 100 fire alarms/fire suppression devices to increase coverage on PCC’s six campuses.
- Testing an emergency loudspeaker paging system at Northwest Campus, with a goal of installing the system at other PCC campuses by next year.
The new security systems are part of the college’s response to a series of events in the community and around the country.
Numerous national incidents of gun violence, most notably the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, led PCC faculty members to seek more control over the safety of their students and classrooms.
During the Spring 2013 semester, several assaults were reported at Downtown Campus, including a robbery and attempted sexual assault on Jan. 18. Less than a month after that incident, the college began exploring options for a text-alert system.
It cost approximately $2.7 million to establish the new security measures, according to the college. That total does not include salaries for the additional police department employees.