In just six hours on Thursday, 3,200 people signed up for Kansas University's new text message emergency alert system.
And it's not even operational yet. In an e-mail to 30,000 KU students, staff and faculty members, the university encouraged members of its community to provide the university with their cell phone number and service provider in order to receive emergency alerts.
"We had been planning to work on text messaging, and then all of the sudden Virginia Tech happened," said Marlesa Roney, vice provost for student success. "We weren't really that far along."
The Office of Student Success has been overseeing the project, which has been implemented quickly, according to a programmer on the project.
"This project was important enough to the people that make those decisions to say here, 'you have a short period of time to make it happen,'" said Jonathan Glauner, a programmer with KU's Information Technology office.
Roney said the program will be in place by the end of the semester.
Right now, KU community members can put their information into the system, but the alert capability is not activated. Roney said KU still must select a vendor and then test the system. But she expects the system to be working soon.
Roney and her staff have long grappled with not having accurate emergency contact information for students. In addition to providing cell phone numbers, the interface also prompts people to update emergency contacts and other personal information. She said all of this will be emphasized repeatedly to incoming freshmen.
"We really try to have key messages that are repeated at different points," she said. "We want to emphasize the importance of providing emergency contact information and that it is important it is accurate."
Roney said this is just one of several vehicles of communication the university is pursuing in order to update the KU community about emergencies.