Feedback about first activation of CruzAlert system

To: UCSC Community

From: Chris Gaylord, Campus Emergency Manager, UCSC Fire Department

On Thursday, May 21, the campus initiated its first activation of the CruzAlert system in response to a potential campus emergency.

Fortunately, campus and county officials ultimately determined that the object prompting the activation was not a safety threat (see same-day campus message).

Still, the activation - and feedback we received from many people on campus - helped us understand what worked and what could have worked better about this still-new alert system.

Here is the feedback we received:

  • Many people let us know that the system worked well and provided them with real-time information about a report that had closed the campus's main entrance.

  • Some members of the campus community voiced concerns about the number of text messages and e-mails that were sent during the activation. The default configuration for the CruzAlert system was set to send text and e-mail messages three times to ensure receipt of the message. As a result of this feedback, however, we now realize that this led to excessive message traffic and that most cell phone users pay per message for text messages. We are therefore reconfiguring the system; during future activations, only one text message and/or e-mail message will be sent to each recipient. Follow-up messages, including "all clear" messages, will still be sent only as necessary.

  • Some concerns were raised about the length of time it took for e-mail and phone call messages to be delivered. Delivery of text messages appears to have occurred relatively quickly, which is why we encourage anyone with a cell phone with text messaging capabilities to register their number in CruzAlert as this is often the fastest delivery method. E-mail delivery appears to have been delayed on some e-mail accounts, and we are assessing the cause; and phone calls unfortunately do take time.

  • Questions have been asked about how often CruzAlert messages will be sent. CruzAlert has been operational since September 2008, and this was the first activation of the system other than for very limited roll-out testing. Yet, please be reassured that we will deploy the system only when an emergency - or threat of an emergency - warrants its use.

  • Concerns were also raised about the small amount of information presented in this first transmission. CruzAlert is intended to quickly transmit a message in the early stages of an emergency; the more we say the longer it takes to transmit. In addition, text messages are limited to 140 characters, which means messages must be short, concise, and possibly even grammatically incorrect in order to get the most information out. Please remember that CruzAlert is not intended to be the only source of information. At the time that Thursday's messages were sent, for example, the main campus homepage, the campus emergency management website, and the campus's 459-INFO emergency hotline were updated with more detailed information. Whether prompted by a CruzAlert message or not, please make it a habit to use these other resources during a real emergency or threat of one.

Finally, I encourage you to make sure that the CruzAlert system has your current information. Changes to your registered numbers and e-mail addresses can be made by going to and following the appropriate link for either students or faculty/staff. This web site also provide more information about the system and how it is used. More specific questions can be sent to

Thank you.