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Messaging Firms Atwitter Following Virginia Tech Massacre

Messaging system companies set their marketing programs on "vibrate" last week in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings, sending out reminders to the higher ed community that effective electronic messaging systems are essential tools of public safety on campus.

Firms wasted little time trying to capitalize on the incident. Netpresenter Inc., which markets XML-based screen-saver and pop-up notification services, issued a press release the day after the shootings. In a statement, CEO Frank Hoen said the firm's campus-wide emergency alert "could have made a difference at Virginia Tech."

"In yesterday's news conference, Virginia Tech University President Charles Steger said notifying students immediately about the first shooting incident would have been difficult and impractical," according to Hoen. "We know it could have been done--with the right system the majority of students and staff could have been alerted."

Mobile Campus Inc., which markets an advertiser-supported campus text-messaging system that is otherwise free to affiliated universities, sent out a notice announcing the "availability of a free service capable of immediately and simultaneously alerting students, university employees, and others via text messages on cell phones."

"While the system can be used for a variety of important communications and notifications, including promotional offers, Mobile Campus has decided, in the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy, to make the service available to students and others who want to opt into the system only for emergency alerts."

MIR3, a San Diego-based business that provides emergency notification technology, also issued a press release last week, saying the company was "receiving many phone calls from educational institutions that want to modernize their communication infrastructures to better handle emergency situations, including weather-related and other disasters. We are working with these organizations to implement emergency notification systems within 24 hours."

"The MIR3 communications platform was designed for ease of use and to cut overall response time so that in the heat of an emergency the system is set to go with minimum effort," Margi Schmidt, a company spokesperson wrote.

ClearTXT, a mobile messaging provider to the higher ed market, sent out a notice on Friday, saying its founder, Dr. Doug Kaufman, would be available for interviews, including over the weekend. The firm said Kaufman could provide perspective on "the crucial role of technology in emergency situations," as well as "How to effectively keep students and faculty informed during emergencies."

About the Author

Paul McCloskey is contributing editor of Syllabus.

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