In an effort to improve its effectiveness, the often criticized UCSB Alert System is increasing its networking skills with the help of Facebook.

The recent launch of the alert system’s social-networking component is an attempt to systematize and broaden the reach of the emergency alert system, which has been criticized as unorganized and ineffective in the past. The application, which allows users to receive updates directly on their Facebook accounts, was created as another measure to ensure students receive the emergency alerts.

According to Chad Mandala, a fourth-year English and dramatic arts major, Facebook provides the ideal means for contacting students in case of an emergency.

“People check their Facebooks all the time,” Mandala said. “Something where they can go and students check it regularly anyway seemed like a great resource we should be utilizing.”

The application is the result of a collaborative effort by campus police and a number of departments on campus, including technology divisions.

Although a crisis has not yet occurred to test the application, Mandala said the Facebook application has been praised by many on campus as the most effective method of reaching students.

“Other departments and groups on campus have Facebook groups, like resident halls and career services,” Mandala said. “So they have become fans of the UCSB alert system application on Facebook, and will all repost the alert system’s posts to help students stay updated on Facebook.”

George Foulsham, news director for the Office of Public Affairs, said UCSB has begun to fully embrace the power of social networking to promote the university, both as a single entity and on a departmental basis.

“Facebook has become a way to reach people in a way that news media hasn’t even been able to,” Foulsham said.

The UC Santa Barbara News and Research page on Facebook currently has 442 fans, but is growing at a rate of five to 20 fans each day, according to Foulsham. With a variety of UCSB-related organization sites, such as the Associated Students fan page and the Alumni Association fan page, Facebook has become a widespread, free campus news resource.

“We don’t have the money to buy an ad somewhere that says we’re on Facebook,” Foulsham said. “But once you know about it, you tell your friends, and that’s how it spreads. I think that’ll continue to grow as awareness grows.”

The university is not entirely relying on Facebook to improve the alert system, however. According to Ron Cortez, UCSB’s associate vice chancellor for Administrative Services, the university is also installing an auditory notification system, much like a public broadcast system, to help maintain organization and clarity in case of an emergency.

“The first [speaker] is actually being installed right by North Hall,” Cortez said. “There will be five of them on campus so that we can actually verbalize what to do — for example, stay away from a certain location.”