Pictured: Public Safety Officer Matthew Stratton in the Safety and Security Office at the Germantown campus.
By Rachel Taylor
Since the false MC alert in early February, training about the system’s use, which uses Rave Mobile Safety’s software, has been provided to public safety staff monthly to help prevent another false alert from occurring.
Marcus Rosano, director of Media and Public Relations for Montgomery College, conducts the training sessions, which are held in person and intended for Public Safety staff. Rosano uses the software’s training mode to demonstrate ways it can be used in different scenarios, he said. The monthly training will continue indefinitely, as Rosano said he did not believe there was any reason to stop.
Although the Clery Act does not specify that colleges must use a platform like Rave Mobile Safety, the law requires colleges “to have some method, or channel, to distribute timely emergency messages,” according to Rosano. The Clery Act is “a federal statute requiring colleges and universities participating in federal financial aid programs to maintain and disclose campus crime statistics and security information,” according to the Department of Education.
Rave Mobile Safety’s software is used by 1400 institutes of higher education, according to their website. A committee at MC chose to use Rave Mobile Safety’s software through a procurement process. The previous system was outdated, and the college updated MC Alert with the Rave Mobile Safety software last September.
When reached by phone, a sales representative for Rave Mobile Safety said he was not entirely sure about how the company keeps track of false alerts sent using their software. He said the matter was not his department and referred to upper management. He also said the software has safeguards built into it to prevent false alerts, including a chance to review messages before sending them.
The current MC Alert system requires people to manually register their phone numbers online to receive alerts via text message, although alerts are sent out to MC email addresses by default. Currently, over ten thousand phone numbers have been registered, Rosano said. After events like the gas leak in Germantown and weather-related closings, there have been spikes in the number of people registering their phone numbers, he said.
Shani Smith, a student employee in the Office of Student Life, said her phone number is registered, but she “didn’t even get the text,” she said regarding the false alert. She did receive the later message saying the alert was mistaken.
Because she did not get the first alert, even though it was false, she said she is “not that confident” in the MC Alert system. Despite the monthly training sessions that now occur, Smith said she was not aware of any steps the college has taken to prevent another false alert. She also said she did not know what the process of sending an MC Alert is like.
Throughout the month of March, Shawn Harrison, the college’s director of Public Safety and Emergency Management, has held a series of discussions about public safety on all three campuses. According to an email from MC Communications, topics covered in these discussions included hybrid police forces and the importance of protecting students at MC.
Two final discussions are planned for April, according to the Office of Public Safety and Emergency Management webpage.
On the morning of April 5, Montgomery County, along with other local jurisdictions, will test the national Wireless Emergency Alerts system, according to a press release from the county. The test will cause phones to vibrate and make a loud noise.