University rolls out PC-based emergency system - still far from perfect

In the aftermath of Virginia Tech, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will soon unveil an alert system to warn students and parents of campus dangers, The Omaha World-Herald reports. Called "UNL Alert," the system will flash onto the screens of university computers, notifying the campus if there's a tornado warning, a bomb threat or a gunman on the loose.

In the aftermath of Virginia Tech, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will soon unveil an alert system to warn students and parents of campus dangers, The Omaha World-Herald reports. Called "UNL Alert," the system will flash onto the screens of university computers, notifying the campus if there's a tornado warning, a bomb threat or a gunman on the loose. It also works on parents' computers if they install the software.

"We'd probably have the entire campus notified in a minute," said UNL Police Chief Owen Yardley.

Current systems rely on email, which is not workable as an emergency alert system. The UNL Alert system will be quicker than e-mail because the university has designed eight simple messages to warn students about everything from threatening weather to a hazardous waste spill, said spokeswoman Kelly Bartling.

There may not be a perfect solution to the Virginia Tech-type crisis, though. Universities have to deal more pedestrian emergencies, as well.

"Things like alcohol, traffic accidents - the routine dangers - pose a much larger threat than some of these sensational things that rarely happen," McAuliffe said. "You have to put (Virginia Tech) in the proper context, realize it's horrific . . . and realize there's no single answer to it.

"Everybody's doing a lot of soul searching now, and the truth is, there's no easy solution."