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Enhancing campus safety: UW Alert text messages soon to reach more students

When you’re walking across campus, you’re probably not pausing to check your email. But right now, email is the only way most UW students receive time-sensitive information about emergencies happening on and near UW’s campuses.

White cell phone with the UW Alert logo next to a laptop.To make it easier for students to receive UW Alerts via text, at the end of January UW will start adding the phone number from your UW student profile to the UW Alert system. If the number is for a cell phone, UW will send you UW Alerts via text. The messages are only for emergencies or major issues affecting the campus, such as snow, ice or power outages.

UW is the latest university to move from opt-in alerts to an opt-out emergency text message system for students. Universities that have experienced major incidents often switch to automatic enrollment for alert messages. UW is moving proactively to get UW Alerts to more students more quickly.

Division of Campus Community Safety staff have been prepping for several months with colleagues in UWIT to make this shift. When we reviewed the goals of the shift this past fall with Seattle campus student leaders and the more than 200 students and parents we met at the Division of Campus Community Safety info table during Parent & Family Weekend in Seattle, many were surprised that students weren’t already automatically enrolled in UW Alert text messages.

Many faculty and staff members were also surprised to learn that only 17 percent of UW employees have signed up for UW Alert text messages. This first phase of the shift from opt-in to opt-out does not include employee information, but that will come later this year.

Even after UW uploads student phone numbers to UW Alert, it will be important for students to check their UW Alert account to ensure that the cell phone number listed is correct and that you’re receiving messages for the right campus. Students, faculty and staff can also add or change their cell phone in their UW Alert accounts themselves at any time. In an emergency, seconds matter. You need to know what’s happening quickly and how you can protect yourself.

If you don’t want to receive UW Alerts via text, you can reply STOP to any UW Alert text message (except for students living on campus in Seattle, who must contact Housing & Food Services for account changes).

Learn more about the UW Alert update, get answers to your UW Alert questions and add up to three cell phone numbers and five email addresses to your UW Alert account at the UW Alert webpage.