In the wake of the stabbing at CU-Boulder Monday, CSU is trying to establish its own emergency text message alert system.
Once in place, the system, called Rave Alert, will allow the administration to text message staff, faculty and students in emergency situations.
“We’re in very good shape in terms of the implementation,” said Jose Valdes,
CSU’s associate director for telecommunications. “It’s pretty much ready to go. What we’re dealing with is the process of introducing it to the campus. The system is operational, we’ve done some testing, which we believe validates that it’s ready to go. But before we introduce it to the campus we want to make sure we have all the procedures down pat and that we know how to implement it effectively.”
The emergency management team at CSU has been working on an emergency notification for about a year.
“(CSU) started this quite a long time ago – before the Virginia Tech situation,” Valdes said. “We were looking at text messaging as a way to reach students because we know most of (them) have cell phones and that’s (their) primary form of communication. We knew we had to find a way of reaching students in case there was some kind of an emergency. The desire to be prepared at that time was driven by pandemic flu potential.”
According to Brad Bohlander, spokesman for CSU, the university had been evaluating three different systems last spring before deciding on Rave Alert of New York.
“We had been familiar with Rave products,” Valdes said. “After Virginia Tech, companies were coming out of the woodwork. Rave Alert was selected after we did an analysis of what was out there providing text messaging, and we felt that Rave Alert was the best option after the review of several others.”
CSU’s Department of Telecommunications is financially responsible for the contract with Rave Alert. The exact cost cannot be disclosed at this time, but it may be equivalent to the text messaging system in place at CU-Boulder.
“CU has estimated about $18,000 a year, and ours is very comparable,” Valdes said.
How it works
While it is mandatory for staff and faculty with school-issued phones to register their phone numbers with Rave Alert, students can choose whether or not to participate.
The initial plan was to give students the opportunity to register their phone numbers for the emergency alert system when they register for classes for the spring semester.
Now there is talk of allowing students to register earlier, although no official date has been set.
“We want to roll the program earlier because we are seeing, for example, CU used Rave Alert (Monday) because of the unfortunate incident with that student being attacked,” Valdes said. “We should work to expedite and try to have registration earlier than we planned on.”
If an emergency text message is sent, students may have to pay for the cost of the message, depending on the phone service provider they have.
“Consequently, emergency messages would truly be under life and safety type circumstances,” Valdes said.
The emergency alert system will rarely be used, Bohlander said. He gave a “lowest level” example of sending a text to students if the school was closed because of blizzard conditions, and it was unsafe for students to drive to campus.
Additionally, the ability to produce and send emergency messages would be reserved to a select group of people on campus.
“This is not something that faculty and staff can randomly go in and generate a message and send it out to those registered,” Bohlander said.
Delivery from Rave Alert to carriers is estimated to be 100,000 messages per minute.
“The campus emergency management team and others realize that there isn’t one single way of reaching faculty, staff and students in case of an emergency,” Valdes said. “We believe, however, that text messaging is a very good way of reaching students because the proliferation of text-enabled cell phones among the student population.”
Staff writer Laurel Berch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org