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Southern Wesleyan U Taps SMS Texts for Emergency Warnings
- By Dian Schaffhauser
The area of Central in South Carolina, where Southern Wesleyan University is located, has had several tornados during the current school year. Finding out about those in time to get to safety has driven sign-ups to more than half of the student, faculty, and staff population for the campus' opt-in SMS texting service.
The SWUAlert notification system, hosted by CallFire, is used only to alert people of situations that may require specific action. According to the university, the system has been used to alert subscribers to impending weather conditions such as a tornado watch or icy conditions, but it may also be used to notify the community about other critical information. The system isn't used to announce events or programs.
CallFire provides telephony services for group broadcast, information hotlines, and voice surveys. The SMS service used by Southern Wesleyan does text messaging, which could allow for auto-replies and short codes or long codes if a response were required.
"CallFire was great to work with," said Joseph Brockinton, vice president for student life. "The new system has helped us keep our costs down while providing us with the exact service we need to communicate quickly with our campus community. We are grateful for the company's cooperation and performance." Brockinton has sent three tornado alerts, all with 100 percent documented reception.
When the university first introduced the service, it advised students and staff via emails, a weekly e-news publication, and during weekly chapel services. Recipients who wanted to opt-in were then prompted to send a keyword text to a short code, with the option of unsubscribing at any time. Subscribers immediately received a "congratulations" feedback message confirming their subscription was successful.
As part of the service, CallFire now maintains a phone list of all opt-in participants for the university and troubleshoots cellphone issues as they arise for subscribers.
Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @schaffhauser.