Virginia Tech revamps emergency plans
Two months after the Virginia Tech shootings, the school is rolling out plans for an expanded emergency notification system that will allow students, faculty and staff to be alerted to emergencies by text messages, e-mails and online instant messages.
Starting July 2, members of the Tech community can sign up for the expanded “VT Alerts” system, which will be ready to go by the time fall classes begin Aug. 20.
Plans to revamp the system actually began last fall, after an escaped prisoner accused of killing a hospital security guard fled to the Tech area and caused the campus to shut down. The school was in the process of selecting a vendor for the new alert system when the April shootings occurred.
“We were already rolling down this path before April 16 came along,” Mr. Hincker said. “This is exactly what we have had planned.”
With the new technology, being provided by 3n (National Notification Network), a California-based provider of mass-notification systems, students and staffers can receive alerts by cell phone text message, online instant messages, phone calls and e-mails.
Students and staffers eventually will be able to add phone numbers, e-mail addresses and instant message screen names for their friends and family to the system.
During the April 16 shootings, the university relied mainly on e-mails, the campus siren and a message on Tech“s Web site to alert students to the danger, Mr. Hincker said. At the height of the crisis, the Web site was receiving 150,000 hits an hour, he said.
Since then, the school has been conducting a sweeping review of campus safety. Dorms now will be locked 24 hours a day, accessible only by swipe cards. School officials are debating whether to add locks to classroom doors.
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