Student deadline for signup is Wednesday
Sept. 24, 2007
By Janelle Huelsman
The incidents last week on the Delaware State campus served as a new reminder of the importance of established, reliable communication channels for campus safety. This week, Ohio University is putting emphasis on the reliable part of the equation by launching a test of emergency text messaging for students.
"In theory, text messaging is a good way to get the word out quickly," said Sally Linder, senior director of media relations. "But we want to make sure it can deliver when sending out thousands of messages at once."
To that end, the university's Critical Incidence Response Team communication group has set up an emergency text message test this week for interested students who subscribe to texting. Students must enter their text message information at www.ohio.edu/registrar/myaddress.cfm by 5 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26, to take part. The test will be conducted Friday, Sept. 28.
"We hope to get as many cell phone numbers and providers as possible so the test stresses the system, as would happen in an emergency," said Linder, who is a member of the CIRT communication group. "That way, any weaknesses are likely to surface."
It is important for students to register their cell phone numbers and cell phone providers to be part of a test. Messages cannot go out if the provider is not known.
According to Duane Starkey, director of information technology business services and special projects, everyone who enters their cell phone number and provider will get a reminder e-mail.
"The e-mail will tell people who registered what to do if they don't get a text message by 5 p.m. on Friday," Starkey said.
Following the test, the Office of Information Technology will assess the results. If the test is successful, students who registered their cell phone numbers and cell phone providers will be included in any emergency text-message alerts or tests in the future. The university also hopes to make text-message emergency notification available to staff and faculty.
"First, we're looking to make sure the university's system works and, more importantly, that all the cell phone providers can respond when a large volume of calls come at them at once," Linder said.
Linder stressed that no single communication device will serve to notify everyone in the event of an emergency, but text-messaging, if effective, would be a good tool for mass notification, providing cell communications are intact.