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 Tuesday, September 11, 2007 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter

IN THE SPOTLIGHT


Text messaging system put to test on first day of class
by Jeannine Malmsbury, News Services

On Thursday, Aug. 23, CU-Boulder announced a new contract with a firm called Rave Alert, allowing campus officials to send emergency text messages at a moment's notice via mobile phone to students, faculty and staff members.

Four days later on Monday, Aug. 27, Rave Alert was put to the test when a message went out to 1,300 subscribers informing them of a stabbing incident at the University Memorial Center. Within a week, subscriptions to the service had soared to 9,500, more than 25 percent of the roughly 37,000 eligible campus users.

Adoption of the Rave Alert service for emergency communication was one of several recommendations developed over the summer by a campus task force appointed last spring by Vice Chancellor for Administration Paul Tabolt to explore campus emergency response systems.

In the post-Virginia Tech environment, the task force decided that quick text messaging via mobile phone would be a valuable addition to existing communication systems for emergencies, especially to notify students who use phones around the clock.

"The report of the task force emphasized that in any major emergency, multiple forms of communication need to be used to inform the campus community quickly of the situation and what to do," said Tabolt. "Of the many ways we plan to communicate during an emergency, text messaging via cell phones emerged as one of the best ways to notify students."

A one-year contract with Rave Alert was approved in August for about $18,000. In addition to the base fee, the contract calls for CU-Boulder to pay 6 cents per completed text message.

Two days after the system was used to communicate the UMC incident, a campus power outage on Aug. 29 that affected dozens of buildings and residence halls became the second incident communicated through the text messaging system. The Aug. 29 message raised questions about when and how the Rave Alert system will be deployed, issues that were examined by a second committee, which made recommendations to Tabolt in early September for further review.

Through the Rave Alert system, phone numbers are maintained in a secure database to be used only during an emergency. Messages typically will direct people to Web sites and to the media for more information.

CU-Boulder's contract also does not allow Rave Alert to market other services to people through their cell phones.

To sign up for the Rave Alert system, students, faculty and staff members who have Colorado.edu e-mail addresses can sign up for the messaging service by going to the campus Web site at http://www.colorado.edu/alerts/ .

 


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