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Oklahoma Christian encourages campus to register for Emergency Alert System

Friday, September 21, 2007  
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By Sarah Gogarty

Plans for the installation of an emergency notification system were already underway in April at Oklahoma Christian University.

After the Virginia Tech shooting on April 16, the Information Technology staff sped up the process.

John Hermes, the chief technology officer of IT services, introduced the new campus Emergency Notification System last spring. He continues to invite campus members to sign up to receive the notifications.

“We had a few that [signed up] last year, and then we tried to make a push at it the beginning of this semester,” Hermes said.

Most of the notifications are about weather advisories, but the system will notify the campus in the case of other emergencies. Students, faculty and staff will continue to get campus e-mails about emergency situations, but the university is looking into new ways to keep everyone informed.

“We’re really focusing on the cell phones because obviously we can e-mail the students at their addresses anytime,” Hermes said. “For emergency notification to work we would need to have everyone on e-mail all the time. With cell phones, you have that with you all the time, So our push is for people to register their phones.”

IT is also working on a way to let those who participate know that they have registered correctly. Currently, they send out a test text message on the last Friday of every month, but the details are still being worked out about when the tests should take place.

The Director of Security Fred McGuinn and the rest of the security staff are also involved in any emergency affecting the university. Because of the Emergency Notification System, security and everyone else on campus has the same information in any emergency situation.

“I think that [the Emergency Notification System] is another safety step to take to improve our campus in dealing with an emergency and letting people know about it early so that they can respond,” McGuin said.

The system works through a small company that sends mass text messages to everyone who has added their cell phone number to the list. These messages inform recipients of any emergencies.

The system is funded though the Information Technology budget; it costs about $2000 a year. The system has been used twice this semester for weather-related events.

About 680 users have signed up so far. Information Technology is looking for new ways to promote the system. The promotions should be e-mailed to the entire campus soon and will also be sent out at the beginning of next semester.

“Students need to pay attention to [what’s going on] on their own; not wait for faculty and staff to tell them what is going on,” McGuinn said.

The new notification system will make sure there is more than one way to let people know how to respond in a safe and timely way to emergencies.

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