Colorado State University this week launched its emergency cell phone text messaging alert service. The service is available to all faculty, staff and students who sign up.
The new program will send a text message alert to all enrolled cell phones in the event of an emergency at the university. The system will only be used during a safety emergency or unexpected closing of the university, such as a snow day.
Tests of the system show that messages can reach subscribers within a few minutes. The text message alert will complement emergency communications and university closure notification systems already in place which include campus-wide emergency e-mail, the university’s Web site, reverse 911, communications with the mass media and the snow line. The university’s Emergency Management Team, a group of staff from various departments across campus charged with planning for emergency response, has been reviewing various text messaging services for more than a year along with Colorado State’s Telecommunications Department, which will manage the system for the university.
"The safety of our faculty, staff and students is of critical importance to the university. We’re pleased to begin using another tool that can help us communicate with the campus community," said Colorado State University Police Department Chief D. Yarbrough, who chairs the Emergency Management Team.
The phone numbers of Sprint cell phones, the university’s contracted provider, supplied to faculty and staff for work purposes have been automatically entered into the system. Faculty and staff phones through Nextel or other providers have not been entered and must be entered by those individuals. Faculty and staff without a university provided phone who want to register a personal phone or with other provider agreements must enter their cell numbers through the university’s registration system.
Students are not automatically entered into the system and also must register. All participants need to update cell numbers manually if the contact information changes, and faculty and staff already registered who wish to use an alternative phone to their university phone must manually make that change.
Currently only one phone can be registered per user, although plans are underway to allow registration of multiple phones per user later this year.
The service will be provided without an additional fee from the university, although participants may need to pay for incoming text messages as part of their regular phone plan. However, use of the alerts are expected to be rare since they will be activated only in emergency situations.
Previous surveys of Colorado State residence halls show that about 90 percent of students on campus have cell phones. Focus groups of students on campus show that they use text messages to communicate.
To enter a cell phone number into the system, anyone with a campus EID — a university electronic identity – can register at http://ramweb.colostate.edu. Once on the site, click on "Records" on the right side of the page, then on "Change My Emergency Notification Cell Phone" and enter the number. The same steps can be taken to update cell phone information.
Colorado State and RAVE Wireless are currently developing a method for registrations entered through the RAMweb site to be updated every 24-hours. Until then, RAVE Wireless will update them at least twice a week.
Students will be prompted to verify or update their information to the service when they log onto RAMweb to register for classes each semester. Faculty and staff should update their information as it changes.