MARQUETTE - In 2008 Northern Michigan University implemented an instant text-messaging program to alert students, faculty and staff to on-campus emergencies.
According to university officials, many universities are adopting or exploring similar systems to complement their existing notification procedures.
"There is talk of making this type of service a requirement for all universities," said Jeff Mincheff of NMU Public Safety and Police Services. "A driving force behind this is the Clery Act and its emphasis on timely notification. It's estimated 95 percent or more of the campus population has cell phones with text-messaging capability, so it's an easy way to contact a majority of the people you're trying to reach in an urgent situation."
(Journal photo by Matt Honold)
The Clery Act is the federal law, originally known as the Campus Security Act, that requires colleges and universities across the United States to disclose information about crime on and around their campuses.
NMU has contracted with OTAir's "University Alert System" - a company that has higher education and corporate clients nationwide. While the service is free - aside from any text messaging fee associated with the cell phone carrier -it isn't automatic.
Individuals must opt in to participate by registering at myweb.nmu.edu/alerts. They must have an NMU e-mail account and a phone that accepts text messages. They can also sign up family members to receive the same alerts sent to the campus community.
OTAir's program is designed to enable all types of text messaging, but NMU plans to use the new system only for emergency notifications.
"We already have a variety of tools that we can use to try to contact members of the NMU community in times of an emergency, such as e-mail, voice mail, large monitors in some facilities, Web sites, announcements to media outlets and person-to-person communication," Mincheff said. "This is another tool that affords us one more way to try to get information out as quickly as possible."
To learn more about NMU's emergency text messaging program, go to www.nmu.edu/publicsafety.