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ASU adds text message alert system


September 28, 2007

In an effort to reach as many students, faculty and staff as possible during an emergency, ASU has added text message notification to its list of communication channels.

The new system joins an existing pool of communication methods that ASU can deploy during an emergency to inform students, faculty and staff.

Other methods include:

• E-mail.

• Reverse 9-1-1 calls to campus land lines.

• Emergency hot line.

• Emergency bulletins to media.

• Electronic billboards.

• Public address systems.

• ASU Web site.

• Door-to-door notifications.

Launching the text message system is part of a comprehensive endeavor by ASU to better inform the university community about emergency preparedness and response. Other efforts include a new Web site dedicated to educating the university community on emergency situations and increased training for all emergency responders across the university.

The enhanced attention to emergency response at ASU comes at a critical time for universities across the nation in light of the tragic incident at Virginia Tech April 16. Several reports on the incident have been released and ASU is carefully reviewing all reports for lessons learned.

“The safety and security of our university community is a very high priority at ASU,” says Paul Ward, vice president for university administration and general counsel, and ASU’s chief emergency policy executive. “We’re evaluating all reports related to the Virginia Tech tragedy and reviewing emergency procedures to ensure we’re implementing the most appropriate response.”

One learning lesson that came out of Virginia Tech almost immediately following was the use of a text message system to communicate quickly to students, faculty and staff on and off campus. ASU was researching such a system before April, but sped up the process after the tragedy in Blacksburg, Va.

“We had discussions before April, but the Virginia Tech incident brought such a tragedy to reality and we pushed forth the project immediately,” says Rose Snow, director of technology alliances for the university technology office (UTO).

Snow says that UTO sent out a Request for Proposal (RFP) to establish a cellular/wireless partnership in early spring. Verizon Wireless was selected because of its expansive network, excellent customer service and additional applications such as a text messaging service.

The text message system is an opt-in service in which students, faculty and staff can choose to receive a text from ASU in times of an emergency. To sign up for the service, visit the Web site www.asu.edu/go/alert_text. An ASU- Rite identification and password is needed to sign up.

If an emergency is in progress at the university, ASU can send a text message of up to 150 characters to those who subscribe to the program. The message will provide immediate instructions for the community and give a resource to obtain further information.

For those with a Verizon cellular plan, there is no charge for the text; those who have other providers may be charged 15 cents per text. Subscribers can provide up to three different phone numbers for notification.

For more information on ASU’s emergency plans, check out the university’s newest Web site: www.asu.edu/emergency. On this site, students, faculty, staff members and parents can find all information relevant to emergency preparedness and response at ASU, including important phone numbers, workshops and presentations, procedures and other resources.

“Much of this information was accessible somewhere online, but in various places that were difficult to find,” Ward says. “ASU decided to create one Web location for all emergency-related resources to better inform our university community generally, and a multiple-point, duplicative communication system to provide information to the largest number of people possible in the event of an emergency.”

Following the heels of these two enhanced communication efforts, ASU also beefed up its training and protocols. Numerous ASU staff who would be called upon during an emergency attended a session in July on the university’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and how everyone will contribute a specific role during an emergency. Training for these individuals is continuing through the fall semester and a tabletop drill to test the EOC and its effectiveness is planned during the first quarter of 2008.

ASU has a comprehensive emergency operations plan that follows federal standards and complies with the National Incident Management System (NIMS) guidelines. To view the plan, visit the Web site http://eoc.pd.asu.edu.

Students, faculty and staff members who wish to anonymously report a violation of safety or compliance on campus can contact the hot line by calling (877) 786-3385. For other emergency numbers, visit the Web site www.asu.edu/emergency.