UM-Dearborn adds voice, text messaging for emergency notification

March 10, 2008

DEARBORN / March 10, 2008---University of Michigan-Dearborn students, faculty and staff will be able to register to receive voice and text messages during major emergencies on campus, under a plan launched March 10.

With the new emergency alert system, messages may be sent via e-mail as well as voice or text messages to devices including cell phones and “smartphones.” The three U-M campuses are rolling out the plan simultaneously. In case of emergency, messages will be sent to separate campuses based on the nature and location of the incident.

All active UM-Dearborn student, faculty and staff e-mail addresses automatically will receive announcements during campus-wide emergencies. In addition, individuals will be able to register two telephone or cell phone numbers and a device to receive text messages. Officials describe the new system as an important addition to campus safety efforts.

“We need more than a single mode of notification in an emergency,” according to Robert Behrens, vice chancellor for business affairs. “This system, which is intended only for significant emergencies and clear threats to public safety, gives us greater ability to communicate quickly with a large number of people in an emergency.”

Text messaging may be the fastest and most efficient way to contact large numbers of people at the same time, and campus administrators are encouraging students, faculty and staff to register mobile phone numbers on the system as soon as possible. Those who sign up for the system will be able to receive text or voice messages wherever they may be during an emergency and lessen dependence on receiving e-mail notices in urgent situations.

“The emergency-alert system won’t replace our regular efforts to help ensure community awareness of important safety issues, but it’s an important addition for emergency situations,” Behrens said.

Campus officials anticipate testing the system at the end of March and using the new alert system only when a major emergency is occurring. While the University will not pass along any fees to use the service, message recipients may be charged for calls or messages by their service provider, depending on their individual phone plans.

“With more students and employees now using text messaging, we wanted a system that could use that technology in addition to e-mail,” according to Behrens. “We hope we don’t have to use it, but now we’ll be able to inform our campus much more quickly and effectively than ever before.”

Examples of when the system may be activated include if a person actively shooting a weapon is on the loose, a tornado is predicted to strike the campus area, or a major hazardous material spill is impacting a large portion of campus. Messages will provide directions to recipients as to what action they should take.

Since text messages have restrictions on length, additional information during critical incidents will be posted on the campus Web site.

To sign up for the emergency alert system, or for more information, visit http://umemergencyalert.umd.umich.edu.

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CONTACT: Terry Gallagher
PHONE: 313-593-5518
The Office of University Relations
Room 1040, Administration Building
University of Michigan-Dearborn