Mass notification system adopted

by Beacon Staff • September 26, 2007

Connect-ED is a web-based system through which Emerson administrators can alert students and faculty with voice or text messages during emergencies. It was adopted last spring by administrators on Emerson's emergency response team after the tragedy at Virginia Tech, according to Ronald Ludman, Emerson's dean of students.

"We decided that it was important for us to move forward with the notification program," he said.

The state-of-the-art system can send messages to the entire Emerson community within 15 minutes and is compatible with all telephone and network providers, allowing universal access, Travis said.

"The messages will be as concise and timely as possible," said George Noonan, Emerson's director of public safety. "The messages should explain what is going on but also try not to create panic."

More than 37 percent of Emerson students, 1,592 total, and 57.7 percent of faculty, 349 total, have signed up for Connect-ED since President Jacqueline Liebergott encouraged students and faculty to sign up in an e-mail to the Emerson community on Sept. 12.

Ludman said the system's effectiveness depends on the registration of the whole Emerson community.

"I am hoping for one-hundred percent student and faculty registration," he said.

Connect-ED is a mass notification service operated by the NTI Group, a private company specializing in dispatching information through voice or text devices like cell phones and e-mails, Travis said. It is paid for by an annual fee.

"Administrators didn't want to have to weigh the options of sending a notification based on a financial decision," said Adam Travis, Emerson's network and information security manager who is not on the emergency response team.

Emerson officials could not comment on the costs for the system.

The system would be used to notify students of emergencies like natural disasters or threats to public safety on or near campus, and will be tested within weeks.

"I feel like this is a system that will keep me better informed in case of a serious issue," said Alex Oster, a senior writing, literature and publishing major who has also signed up for Connect-ED. "This is only as good as a disaster warning system for a hurricane or tornado. It does nothing to stop the disaster, but it helps lessen the disaster's impact."

Two students were injured by gunfire at Delaware State University by a suspected fellow student on Sept. 21. The university sent a mass notification message to students and faculty to effectively shut down the campus, according to national news reports.

"I think this is the best thing in the world because you are going to have to alert so many people and get the message out quickly," said Noonan. "The Delaware shooting was the perfect circumstance of when that system is supposed to be used."