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Campus Safety

Snowmageddon Creates Avalanche of Emergency Alert Subscriptions

Institutions located in the northeastern part of the country found an uptick in the number of new subscribers for their emergency alert services during the first week of February--as "Snowmageddon" struck. Emergency alert vendor Omnilert said that schools using the service sent 5 million text messages and delivered a million voice calls and e-mails during the week. New users--students, staff, and faculty--were signing up for alerts at the rate of one every other second.

Annemarie Mountz, assistant director of public information at Penn State, said the university had roughly 65,000 subscribers to their PSUTXT messages on e2Campus. Within a short period nearly 6,000 additional people had signed up for the service. "We have 24 separate campuses across Pennsylvania and many of them lie in areas that were hit with heavy snow and blizzard conditions," she explained. "They each used e2Campus multiple times to send an alert to their respective campus communities to tell them that classes were delayed or cancelled."

Penn State also tied e2Campus to Twitter and Facebook pages. "Interestingly, people were commenting on the Facebook post from e2Campus, which provided us feedback in a new dimension," Mountz said.

The University of Maryland in Baltimore had to close for five days due to snow conditions. "In past events, we found a high degree of unreliability with some of the TV stations," said Robert Rowan, emergency management director. "Sometimes they get the message. Sometimes they do not. And occasionally, the messages get distorted a little bit. Then we added e2Campus and have had very good response with it. Our entire campus population of more than 10,000 people gets the alerts in a matter of a few minutes. It broadcasts our message directly to their cell phones, home phones, and e-mail accounts. We have been very pleased with e2Campus."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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