The ability to blast text messages to thousands of people within minutes just became a reality at Mercyhurst University.
Once considered a nonessential, the Virginia Tech tragedy made college administrators nationwide look at text messaging in a whole new light as part of their emergency response plans. Today’s students aren’t listening to the radio; they’re listening to their iPods; they aren’t watching television, they’re tuning into YouTube; and colleges have learned that they cannot update everyone through traditional media any longer.
Mercyhurst’s new system, called e2Campus, extends the reach of existing emergency notification measures like campuswide e-mails and Web page updates to alert students anywhere, anytime. The advantage of text over e-mail is that students are constantly looking at cell phones. It’s their mode of communication.
“We assure you that the safety of our community is one of Mercyhurst’s utmost priorities and believe this system enhances our communication strategy,” said Dr. Gerard Tobin, vice president of student life.
The new system can broadcast text messages to subscribers on all four campuses in just minutes. It will function with mobile phones, Blackberries, wireless PDAs and smart phones. To receive the alerts, members of the campus community must register their cell phones by clicking here
and following the instructions
Participation in the system is optional, but the college hopes to enlist 100 percent of its cell phone users, said Joe Howard, coordinator of student life. Text messaging, he added, is another opportunity to reach people in different locations and to layer the existing system, which is less instantaneous.
The system is free to students, although those whose cell phone plans do not include text messaging would be charged about 15 cents per message.
Howard said the college intends to provide one “test” message per term, and then only use the alerts in the case of an emergency.