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Griffon Alert fails to reach everyone, student crashes driving to school

Missouri Western closed campus for three consecutive days for the first time since 2007. From Feb. 20-22, many students were ecstatic to wake up to campus being closed due to an ice storm.

In order to close campus there is a specific process that involves collaboration between several departments. Vice President of Financial Planning and Administration Cale Fessler works with Risk Manager Tim Kissock, Physical Plant Director Jerry Gentry,  Police Chief Trevor Brown and the Provost Jeanne Daffron to finalize decisions on school closings.

Kissock said that the physical ground employees inspect the weather report, the roads and sidewalks on campus in order to decide if they can clean the roads and sidewalks in time for class.

“The first thing is we of course look at the weather reports,” Kissock said. “After deciding if we have a reasonable ability to get everything cleared up, we sit down and try to figure out if we close today, how much disruption is that going to be.”

Kissock said that the final decision is made by Fessler.

“Ultimately the final decision is made by the VP Cale Fessler,” Kissock said. “He then discusses it with the president, the provost and whoever else needs to be involved in it and makes sure everybody is on board with it.”

Fessler follows up with the decision made by local school districts as well as the information provided by various weather services and the highway patrol. Then a call is made to President Robert Vartabedian for approval. The decision is then disseminated electronically both internally and externally around campus.

Western’s emergency alert system Griffon Alert is used to inform students immediately of campus events such as tornado warnings, bomb threats, active shooters on campus and shelter-in-place due to outdoor hazards. The system is activated by the Missouri Western Police Department.

The most common one is campus closing and classes canceled due to weather or other circumstances. It is not used for daily minor emergencies, fire evacuations, advertising, promotions and personal messaging.

Assistant Director of Public Relations and Marketing Kent Heier said that Griffon Alert is send to all students and faculty members who have signed up.

“We send out a Griffon Alert and that is our emergency notification system and that goes to everybody who has signed up for text messaging. It also should go via email to all enrolled students. In addition, we send a separate email to all faculty and staff,” Heier said.

Students can receive Griffon Alerts via text messaging, e-mail and voice messaging.

Heier said that the university is aware of the glitches that have been occurring with Griffon Alert.

“We understand that there were some glitches,” Heier said. “We update the email distribution list each semester and there appears to have been some glitches where some students may not have been on the list, so we are working to correct that and make sure that when we send out a Griffon Alert via email that most students get it.”

One of the students affected  by the glitch is sophomore Lauren Frazier.

“Before I left for school, I checked my email and I didn’t get anything from the school,” Frazier said. “I used to get Griffon Alerts and I don’t get those anymore because I think that they expire after two years but I did not know that.”

Frazier went to class unaware that campus had closed and crashed her car trying to turn into the east entrance in front of campus.

“The second I start to pull in there, I realize that’s a whole sheet of ice,” Frazier said. “So the second I hit the ice, I panic and I hit the breaks. Then I just go flying into the stop sign, I couldn’t control what happened to my car after that point.”

Because the wreck occurred on the school’s property, Frazier was told by the St. Joseph Police Department that she needed to call the school’s police department.

“After I told him what happened he asked me if I was still there and I told him no,” Frazier said. “After I said no, he seemed less concerned. He then asked me if there was anything else and I said no I just wanted to report that and see what was next and he was like ‘okay well that’s it.'”

After the wreck, Frazier signed up for Griffon Alert again and has yet to receive an email or text message to let her know that she is signed up. Frazier still has not received a call or follow up from anyone regarding the accident.

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