Archive for Friday, May 11, 2007

Emergency system to alert individuals via text messaging

Thousands at KU sign up to receive warnings on their cell phones

May 11, 2007


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KU takes steps to strengthen its emergency response system

Almost a month after the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech, KU is taking new steps to strengthen its emergency response system. The new method? Text message alerts. Enlarge video

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.


compmd 11 years ago

I'm sure that the hardware and software solution on KU's side won't be that big a deal. Heck, most cell phone carriers accept email via SMTP and can push it to client devices by text message. The problem I see is that they are going to try and push THOUSANDS of messages, all at once. Cell phone towers are NOT good at handling that kind of traffic. At the Chi Omega crash, the tower I was connected to was overloaded and refused to put a call through for me several times. I wonder if any infrastructure changes are going to be required. I have great worries about the bandwidth and connection requirements for such a system. Is there a cellular communications person on this board who can shed a little more light?

newsreader 11 years ago

I would think a text message wouldn't use hardly any of the tower,since it's just one short wave of info not a continous stream like a phone call... I think its a great idea.

jhoman 11 years ago

Also, text messages are queued, so even if the tower is overloaded for some reason, text messages will still get through during the split second when the bandwidth becomes available. Should be an excellent system.

Michael Stanclift 11 years ago

Is there a community/non-campus/family side of this? I don't go to KU but my fiancee does and in the event of an emergency it'd be nice to get some sort of alert as well. I'd even do an email since it'd get dumped to my Treo just as fast as an SMS (text message).

Anyway, one would hope that the system could handle the messages. My guess is that it'd probably be setup to send out the alerts in chunks, and not send 30,000 messages all at one time.

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