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Calling All Community Colleges

Two-year schools lag in implementing emergency notification systems-- but all higher ed institutions need to boost awareness of these life-saving systems.

Emergency Notification (Click for full-sized image)All may not be equal on college campuses when it comes to emergency notification systems. According to a 2009 CDW-G nationwide survey of higher education institutions*, community college denizens are less likely to know if their campus has a modern notification system than faculty, students, and IT staff at four-year schools. (The survey defined a "modern" system as one that uses a combination of mass e-mail, text-messaging, loudspeakers, and sirens.)

Sixty-two percent of community college survey respondents reported that their campus has some kind of campus emergency notification system, compared to 85+ percent of respondents from public and private four-year institutions. That could mean that fewer community colleges actually have these systems, or that community colleges are doing a lesser job of making their constituencies aware that these systems exist (or a little of both).

Community colleges also lag behind when it comes to participation in these systems. Of the 62 percent of community college respondents who said their campus has emergency notification, only 66 percent acknowledged participating in the system. The reported participation numbers for four-year public and private institutions are much higher.

Furthermore, when it comes to the actual use of technologies, four-year institutions are more likely to utilize mass e-mail and text-message notifications than their two-year-college colleagues, according to IT staff responders to the survey.

About three-quarters (76 percent) of community college IT staff reported that their school uses e-mail alerts for emergency notification, compared to 90+ percent of four-year public and private school IT staff respondents. There’s an even larger discrepancy in the use of text messaging: 66 percent of community colleges send text-message alerts, compared to 80+ percent of four-year publics and privates.

The lower usage levels of e-mail and texting may be particularly unfortunate for community colleges-- since their students spend so much time off campus, it would be beneficial for their alert systems to reach students wherever they are.

The goal, of course, is to achieve 100 percent participation in emergency notification systems on all campuses. That can only happen with better communication from campus administrators about the systems that are in place. See Login for some creative suggestions the study gathered from students about how schools can boost awareness and participation among campus constituents.

*The March 2009 online survey canvassed 400 students, 303 faculty, and 314 campus IT professionals at community college, four-year public, and four-year private institutions. For more info, go here.

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