(EDWARDSVILLE, Ill.) Beginning March 3 Southern Illinois University Edwardsville will offer students and employees the opportunity to register their cell phones as part of a new campuswide "e-Lert" program through a wireless emergency notification system.
It's an additional method of continuing to make SIUE a safe campus, says Dave McDonald, director of the SIUE Office of Emergency Management and Safety. "During February, we've been testing the software and we'll be ready for a March 3 launch," McDonald said. "This alert system will be used only in the case of an ongoing emergency on campus, such as a hostile intruder or tornado warnings," McDonald explained. "Such emergency notifications will include events that present a serious significant disruption to the campus community and pose an immediate danger to life, health and University property.
"In addition, snow closures will be included. However, no non-emergency text messages other than testing will be allowed. We will not send SPAM (unwanted messages) through this system." McDonald said the service would be tested periodically each year. Those registering on any given day will be updated into the system overnight. He also said the University will continue to send emergency messages through its current protocol-web site, e-mails to personal computers and voice mails to all University phones.
Before March 3, e-mail messages will be sent to all 13,500 SIUE students and to more than 2,300 employees, directing them to a Web site (www.siue.edu/e-lert) where they will be able to register a cell phone number if they have an active e-ID and a password. Although there is no cost to register a cell phone in the system, receiving a text message may or may not incur a nominal charge for the recipient, depending on a user's cell phone contract with a provider.
"SIUE Police will be in charge of sending e-Lerts because of the 24/7 nature of the operation," McDonald explained. "This software has Tier 1 provisioning with all North American carriers," he said, "which means they have a higher priority in sending. Text messaging worked much better than other types of communications during (Hurricane) Katrina and during other disasters. If cell phone towers are up, the phone may not work but text messaging has a better chance of getting through because it takes less band width to send a text message."
Employees and students with active e-IDs at all five SIU campuses will be able to opt in to the system. The Edwardsville campus will have jurisdiction over the SIU School of Dental Medicine at Alton and the SIUE East St. Louis Center. The Carbondale campus will have jurisdiction over the SIU School of Medicine and the SIUE School of Nursing facilities, both in Springfield.
SIUE Police Capt. Tony Bennett said the new system will help get the word out faster about any ongoing emergencies on campus, which could mean the difference between life and death. "Research on these systems shows that text messaging doesn't get bogged down like e-mail does from time to time," Bennett said. "Text messaging can often get through faster. "That's why we looked at the text messaging route. It's important to get a quick and efficient emergency message to those on campus so that they can get out of harm's way and find safe haven during a life-threatening event."
McDonald also pointed out that a recipient is not required to reside on campus or even be located on campus to receive an e-Lert from the system. "If the recipient is within cell phone access, they will receive an e-Lert from our campus if one is sent."
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville is proud to celebrate its 50th Anniversary and first half century of excellence. The University has grown from 1,776 students in 1957 to nearly 13,500 students today. SIUE is a catalyst for the cultural and intellectual vitality and economic development of Southwestern Illinois and the greater St. Louis region.