RAVE alerts 13 minutes late

Jessie Hellmann

The recent severe weather activity spurred questions among students about how prepared the university was for a natural disaster.

Around 5:35 a.m. Feb. 29, the National Weather Service (NWS) placed Vanderburgh County under a tornado warning, a fact some students were unaware of because RAVE emergency alert text messages and emails were sent out 13 minutes late.

Some students say they never received the RAVE text message or email.

Freshman criminal justice major and international studies major Caleb Slatter is one of the students who received no RAVE warning when an F-1 tornado hit Newburgh, a town 15 miles east of Evansville on Feb. 29.

He was sleeping when the tornado warning was issued, and none of the resident assistants (RAs) in his building, Newman Hall, knocked on doors or alerted students of the activity, he said.

No RAs or any other officials from the university have ever explained to him where to go or what to do in case of emergencies like the tornado, he said.

“I know it’s common sense, but what about our safety issues for those of us who live on the second and third floor?” he asked.

Slatter did not learn of the tornado until his professor told him that morning during class, he said.

“RAVE needs to do a better job of notifying students,” Slatter said.

The reason the RAVE alerts were sent late was because the dispatchers at the security office had some trouble logging into the system to send the RAVE alerts, said Security Director Steven Woodall.

When the IT department advised security to clean the cookies and cache on their browser, they didn’t experience any more issues logging into the system, Woodall said.

NWS issued a tornado warning for Vanderburgh County at approximately 5:35 a.m. Feb. 29, and the RAVE alert was sent at 5:48 a.m., but that 13 minutes can make a difference. The average tornado lasts about 10 minutes according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website.

Security sends RAVE messages when it appears that the university may be impacted by severe weather, and uses resources like the NWS, Emergency Management Agency and the local media to monitor the weather, Woodall said.

Woodall encourages students to contact the security office with their RAVE issues because it may be useful when determining the cause of the delay, Woodall said. A RAVE test message will be sent out to users in the next few weeks to make sure all problems are fixed, Woodall said.

Information Technology Executive Director Richard Toeniskoetter said if students did not receive their alerts, sometimes it’s because their phones do not accept text messages, or the student entered their cell phone number incorrectly when signing up.

On the morning of the tornado, 6,175 RAVE users were sent messages for the tornado warning, he said.

85 percent of the 6,175 users received the message within the 34 seconds it was sent out, and 98 percent of the alerts were received by users by 2 minutes and 49 seconds.

Toeniskoetter stressed that as of this time, RAVE alerts will only be sent to people who have signed up for the alerts.

Different cell phone carriers treat delivery in different ways, he said.

“For some carriers, we only know that the carrier has accepted the message, and we don’t know how long the carrier takes to deliver to the handset,” he said.

Right now, students can go to their MyUSI dashboard and sign up for RAVE alerts.

Toeniskoetter recommends students send a test message to their phone to make sure their cell phones can receive the alert.