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Updated 10:00 AM March 10, 2008
 

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U-M adds emergency voice, text messaging

Students, faculty and staff can register to receive voice and text messages during major emergencies on campus, University officials have announced.

With the new U-M Emergency Alert system, messages may be sent via e-mail as well as voice or text messages to devices including cell phones and smartphones. U-M-Flint and U-M-Dearborn also are implementing the system for their students, faculty and staff. Emergency messages will be sent to individual campuses based on the nature and location of the incident.

All active U-M student, faculty and staff e-mail addresses automatically will receive emergency announcements. Individuals can register two telephone or cell phone numbers and a device to receive text messages for increased notification. Officials describe the new system as an important addition to campus safety efforts.

"A large, multi-campus university and health system requires more than a single mode of notification in an emergency," says Dr. Robert Kelch, executive vice president for medical affairs. "This system is intended only for significant emergencies and clear threats to public safety. It gives us greater ability to communicate quickly with a large number of people in an emergency."

"Text messaging is fast and efficient," says Timothy Slottow, executive vice president and chief financial officer. "We hope students, faculty and staff register mobile phone numbers for the system as soon as possible to receive text or voice messages wherever they may be during an emergency and lessen dependence on receiving e-mail notices in urgent situations.

"It won't replace crime alerts, regular campus e-mails or our cooperation with local news outlets to help ensure community awareness of important safety issues, but it's an important addition."

University officials anticipate testing the system at the end of March and using the new alert system only during a major emergency. 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 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," says Teresa Sullivan, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. "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. It is not intended for use to announce upcoming events or individual building incidents such as class cancellations, small fires or suspicious packages.

Since significant size restrictions apply to text messages, additional information during critical Ann Arbor incidents will be posted on the Department of Public Safety Web site, www.umich.edu/~safety, and on the U-M-Flint or U-M-Dearborn Web sites for incidents on those campuses.

At this time, U-M-Ann Arbor employees who do not work at an Ann Arbor facility may choose not to register voice or text devices and simply remain informed via e-mail messages.

For more information about the U-M Emergency Alert system including links to the sign-up pages for each campus, go to www.umemergencyalert.umich.edu.

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