From staff reports
Ohio University faculty and staff now can receive a cell-phone text message in the event of a serious emergency affecting the Ohio University Athens campus.
"We are excited to expand this service to faculty and staff," Ohio University Chief Information Officer Brice Bible said. "Having a simple, reliable way for anyone in the university community to receive emergency notifications was a major priority."
The Office of Information Technology, which first made the service available to students in the fall, updated its emergency notification software package this winter so that faculty and staff could be included in emergency text messaging. It also simplified the sign-up procedure and expanded registration hours.
Faculty and staff members at any campus can sign up at https://etm.admsrv.ohio.edu/etm/ using their Oak ID and password. After agreeing to the terms, they will be prompted to enter their cell phone number and service provider. Soon after signing up, registrants should receive a confirmation text message and e-mail.
"Being able to confirm individuals' information on the spot really improves the overall reliability of this communication channel," Bible said.
Registration is encouraged but voluntary. The provided information will remain confidential and will not be used for any other purposes besides emergency messaging. Registrants' names will not appear in the stored information. Registrants agree to cover any charges from cell phone providers for text messaging.
The text messaging system joins a suite of other information channels employed by the university, including CATVision alerts, mass e-mails, an exterior mass notification system (in the works), emergency messaging via the Web and an emergency telephone hotline (7-1800 on the Athens campus; 740-597-1800 otherwise).
"The CIRT (the Critical Incident Response Team) has been working to reach as many members of the campus community as possible through multiple channels," Assistant Vice President for Safety and Risk Management David Hopka said. "Text messaging was selected as one channel, but because it was an untried technology, we used an incremental approach to implement it."
Duane Starkey, director of information technology business services and special projects, urged individuals to verify their information before signing up or if they don't receive a confirmation after registering.
"They must make sure they have a valid cell phone number, can receive text messages and know the correct name of their service provider," Starkey said.
He explained that during the university's test of the student notification system in late September, most calls went through, but incorrect information was by far the largest cause for failed delivery.
Should it become necessary, registrants can alter the information they supplied by visiting the same URL.
If registrants are infrequent text-message users, they also may want to be sure their phones are set up with a recognizable tone to signal when a text message arrives.
Starkey said students' cell phone information soon will be migrated to the new system, making it possible to send all emergency text messages from one source. This will allow for faster message distribution. Students who already are signed up for the service will not need to reregister.
After student information is loaded and faculty and staff have ample opportunity to sign up, OIT will test the emergency system in the spring to make certain it functions as expected for all registrants.
For more information on emergency preparedness, personal safety, crime alerts, crisis response and other resources, go to www.ohio.edu/emergency.
This story was revised Feb. 29, 2008, to reflect the fact that emergency text messages will be sent to subscribers regarding incidents on only the Athens campus at this time.
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