Student Affairs Research & Information (SARI) released the results to a February survey that asked students how they prefer to be contacted in case of an emergency in March.
According to the SARI survey results, the top three ways students prefer to be notified of an emergency are through a public announcement (PA) system, siren or text message.
The survey was conducted from Feb. 20 to 28 via the MyUCDavis portal by a team of junior students in Davis Honors Challenge. The team was sponsored by Valerie Lucas of the UC Davis Campus Emergency.
A total of 4,630 students, or 16 percent of all undergraduate and graduate students, responded to the Quick Survey. Quick Survey is an application in the MyUCDavis portal controlled by SARI that allows it to conduct student center research.
The reason why the percentage of responses to the survey seems relatively low is because it was calculated from both undergraduate and graduate students, said Kathy Davis,an analyst at SARI.
“Normally we survey only undergraduate students,” Davis said. “What we found is that undergraduates visit the MyUCDavis portal at least once a week. Graduate [students] don’t visit the portal at the same rate undergraduates do.”
When students were asked under which circumstance they would like to be notified of an emergency situation, 73 percent answered that they would like to be informed if the emergency occurs in the building they are in. Eighty percent said they wanted to be notified if an emergency occurs anywhere on campus, and 59 percent said they want to be contacted if an emergency occurs near the campus. The frequencies added to more than 100 percent, because selecting multiple answers was possible.
Students were then asked what they thought was the most effective form of notification pertaining to each area. They were allowed to pick up to three choices, including a PA system, siren, text message, e-mail, public radio announcement, emergency lights, and a call to their cell or land/house phone.
In an overview of preferences for forms of notification among all situations, the majority of students surveyed preferred a PA system as their top choice at 69 percent. The second-most preferred choice was a siren at 56 percent, followed by e-mail and emergency lights at 44 and 43 percent, respectively. The least preferred option was a call to their land/house phone.
Looking at the survey responses, the top choices are very immediate forms of notification that don’t require the students to be connected in any way, Davis said.
“This result seems to be something that is observed on other campuses as well,” she said. “I believe students are looking for something that is more immediat,e as cell phone coverage is not everywhere on campus, and [students] may not be checking their e-mails and text messages.”
Most UC Davis buildings, however, may not be equipped with PA systems, Davis said.
“It’s not a trivial matter to adopt the PA system. There is also the concern that PA systems are sometimes very hard to understand,” she said.
Instead of the PA system, the university will continue with its plans to implement the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) system, said Valerie Lucas, UC Davis Campus Emergency manager. VoIP uses Internet protocol to transport voice traffic over any network.
Lucas said the answers to the survey will not alter the plans that UC Davis has in response to emergencies.
“The answers to the survey are in tune with what we were already looking at for a campus emergency messaging program,” she said.
UC Davis Campus Emergency also conducted a survey with more extensive questions about students’ preferences during emergencies.
“Because the success of the emergency notification system depends on having current contact information for each student, one question asked
them what they felt was the best way to remind students to update that
on a regular basis,” Lucas said via e-mail. “An overwhelming majority said that it should be a requirement during registration.”
Students were also asked if they would mind being charged a text fee by their phone company – if they did not have a text plan – for an emergency notification sent by the university. Most students reported that they would accept the fee for an emergency text.
For more information about the survey, go to www.sariweb.ucdavis.edu.
THUY TRAN can be reached at email@example.com.