Southeastern unveils wide-ranging emergency alert system
Contact: Christina Chapple
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HAMMOND – Armed with everything from a loud siren and public address system in the middle of campus to high tech text messaging, Southeastern Louisiana University unveiled the newest components of its emergency alert system today.
“We have been working for months now on upgrading our security plans and integrating various alert systems so that in the case of an emergency or crisis we will have multiple means of communicating emergency messages quickly to the campus community,” said Southeastern President Randy Moffett.
The latest pieces to be added to the multi-layered alert system include the sending of text messages to cell phones and emergency notices to phones and personal computers.
The cell phone text messaging system will allow brief emergency messages to be communicated to faculty, staff and students at the rate of 6,000 messages per minute. Through a statewide program initiated by the Louisiana Board of Regents and supported by the University of Louisiana System, Southeastern will use the Baton Rouge-based company FirstCall to distribute its text, voice and electronic messages.
All students, faculty and staff are currently registered with FirstCall through their campus e-mail accounts to receive alert messages through that medium.
The alert system can also include text messages that will be sent to personal cell phones, if students and others on campus submit their cell phone numbers in order to receive the text alert messages. Additionally, those who opt to provide supplemental contact information will be able to submit up to two phone numbers at which they’d like to receive voice messages and a secondary e-mail address for electronic messaging.
“We will strongly encourage our students to take full advantage of this service, but it will be their responsibility to provide additional information in order to do so,” Moffett said. “We will use all the channels of communication that we have available to communicate to our students the importance of providing multiple means of contact, but it will still remain up to the students to sign up for notifications beyond their campus e-mail accounts. We urge parents to strongly encourage their students to sign up for the services.”
Starting today, e-mail messages will be sent to all students, faculty and staff providing them with information about the system and a temporary password they can use to submit their cell phone and other numbers as well as a supplemental e-mail address. Once that information is submitted, registrants will receive a follow-up e-mail confirming the receipt of their additional means of contact.
Moffett said he hopes Southeastern will have a high rate of success in getting students to sign up for the text message alerts. At many institutions, fewer than 25 percent of the students participate.
“We are emphasizing that this text messaging system will be used only in emergencies and that the information that is shared with us will be kept strictly confidential,” he added.
“Judging from the experiences at other campuses – especially those that have had some serious incidents -- we know that no one means of communication can be completely successful on its own,” Moffett said. “We deliberately built redundancy into our systems to reach as many people as possible.”
Other elements of Southeastern’s emergency alert system include:
▪ Telephone alerts: The campus telephone system will be used to send emergency voice messages to digital phones on campus. The message is broadcast through the telephone speaker without a user having to pick up the handset.
▪ Campus siren and PA system: A public address system that can broadcast sirens or voice alerts has been installed on the top of the university library located in the central part of the campus. The system is loud enough to be heard throughout the campus.
▪ Code Blue emergency phones: Southeastern maintains a network of 25 Code Blue emergency phones located throughout the campus that allow an individual who needs emergency service to push a button and be in instant contact with the University Police Department. An additional 16 Code Blue phones will be installed in other campus locations, including the university’s new parking garage, over the next several weeks.
▪ Security cameras: Security cameras that are monitored by university police are strategically located throughout campus and in buildings, including residential housing and parking areas.
▪ Fire alarm systems: Fire alarm systems in Southeastern buildings are being upgraded for direct integration with the University Police Department so that when an alarm is activated, university police as well as fire department personnel can immediately respond to the building. Employees are regularly trained on the activation of alarms and evacuation of buildings.
▪ Web alerts: The university Web site (www.selu.edu) allows for quick posting of emergency alerts and updates on its homepage. Southeastern is also developing “pages” on popular, student-oriented Web sites such as Facebook and MySpace which may be used to post emergency messages.
“Southeastern maintains a safe environment on campus, and it’s our intent to use technology as much as possible to help us keep our university family safe,” Moffett added.