WarnMe emergency alerts will become opt-out

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A UC Berkeley notification service created four years ago that electronically alerts the campus community to emergencies will automatically  link to CalMail beginning Friday.

The WarnMe emergency alert service was an opt-in system when it was introduced in 2008, but now everyone with access to CalMail will be enrolled unless one chooses to opt out.

An email about the updated system will be sent to all addresses in the CalNet directory, according to a campuswide email sent March 9 by campus spokesperson Claire Holmes.

The transition to an all-inclusive alert system began last year and was not a product of the shooting that occurred at the Haas School of Business Nov. 15, according to campus Director of Emergency Preparedness and Homeland Security Stephen Stoll.

There was no incident that caused this development — rather, the software used for the alerts now has the capability to be opt-out, Stoll said.

“Everyone will start off receiving the alerts to their CalMail, and they will have the option to change their priorities so they could receive their alerts by text, on their cellphones, work phones, etc.,” he said.

Those who do not wish to be alerted to campus emergencies, natural disasters and other crises will have to sign a form saying they do not want to be contacted through WarnMe, Stoll said.

There are currently 32,000 people signed up to receive WarnMe alerts. The campus is also working to enroll nonaffiliates in WarnMe, including some parents, in six months.

“We are not going to allow all parents to join the WarnMe because the system won’t be able to handle it,” Stoll said.

UC Berkeley is not the only campus with such an alert system. UC Davis, UC San Francisco and Vanderbilt University have similar systems.

“There needs to be a comprehensive system in place to notify folks in the case of emergency,” said ASUC External Affairs Vice President Joey Freeman in a text message. “WarnMe is a critical component of the campus’s emergency communications and response system and has the potential to save lives.”

The system will not send a mass of texts, and an occasional text could save a life, said senior Maricel Quirindongo-Crespo.

“I think it’s good for people’s safety,” she said. “I personally keep forgetting to sign up, so its a good thing they are making it automatic.”