Students Gradually Enroll for Text Alerts

COLOMBIA, Mo. – Several emergency alert companies reported that the enrollment rate for emergency text messages to students and faculty are very low.

At the University of Missouri’s Colombia campus, officials entered students who signed up for the text message alert system into a drawing to win an iPod Nano, hoping to improve the sign-up rate. The officials discovered only 15 percent of the university’s 28,000 students requested the system, according to the Associated Press.

The northern Virginia company Omnialert, which provides e2Campus – an emergency alert system – to more than 500 campuses reported that only 39 percent of students and faculty have enrolled to receive text message alerts.

Blackboard Connect, which uses Connect-Ed emergency alert systems at 300 universities, has only a 28 percent participation rate.

Campus safety officials believe students are not signing up for the system because they feel as if a tragedy could never happen to them. Additionally, students are reluctant to give out their personal information. They also said students hesitate to pay the fees that cell phone providers charge to receive and send text messages. Most colleges pay $1 to $4 per enrolled student to businesses that arrange the alerts.

However, not all schools have a low enrollment rate. Boston University mandates their students sign up for the alerts, while Colorado State and Florida State have students accept the system or decline it when they register for classes.

It should be noted, however, that even with high participation from students and faculty, there are glitches that cause the texts not to reach those who have signed up for them. In December 2007, half of the students at Louisiana State University (LSU) who had signed up to receive text alerts failed to receive the message about the shooting of two doctoral students on campus.

ClearTXT, the company providing the alerts, said registration problems hindered the texts from reaching all students. The company now requires students to respond to a confirmation message when they register for the service.

Additionally, campus safety officials emphasize that there should be a comprehensive notification system that includes texts, loudspeakers, sirens, Web announcements, security cameras and more at campuses nationwide.

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