Texting in class

Emergency communication has become an important issue on college campuses across the nation, especially after the Virginia Tech shooting on April 16, 2007. Virginia Tech officials did not alert students until two hours after the first 911 call reporting a shooting at a residence hall. Additionally, they only notified students by e-mail messages, which potentially may not be read for hours.

Enter e2Campus. E2Campus is a self-service, web-based, mass notification network that empowers a school to send instant alerts from one easy-to-use interface. According to the e2Campus Web site, over 90 percent of college students have cell phones.

“When the tragedy happened at Virginia Tech and all the news showed students on cell phones, that was the big eye opener for colleges and universities across the country,” said Bryan Crum, e2Campus’s director of communications. “[They realized] that their current communication plans are inadequate.”

Before Virginia Tech, it took e2Campus three years to sign up 25 schools. Now, they have over 500 university customers.

Concordia recently implemented e2Campus into its emergency plan. Margaret Tungseth, Director of Risk Management said that “although the campus has many avenues to provide information to its faculty, staff, and students, it was felt that in the interest of redundancy, the addition of e2Campus to that menu of communication methods would only further enhance the ability of College to communicate to the campus community in the event of an emergency.”

E2Campus is a multimodal system which allows school administrators to notify faculty, students, and staff in the event of a campus emergency via cell phones by SMS text messages, e-mail accounts, and school website pages, all simultaneously. E2Campus will only be used for Level 2 and Level 3 emergencies, which affect a sizeable portion of the campus community or the entire campus, respectively. Examples of these types of emergencies include building fires, a large scale or dangerous chemical spill, extensive power outage, or flooding (Level 2), and tornadoes, severe flooding, terrorist activity, explosions, or armed assailant(s) on campus (Level 3).

To sign up for e2campus, go to http://www.e2campus.com/my/cord/ and click on “I need to create an account.” This service is provided at no charge to the students. All you need to do is enter your name, cell phone number, and service carrier. You can sign up two cell phone numbers, so you may register one of your parents’ numbers or another contact. There is also an “opt-out by” option with a drop-down box of dates ranging from December 2008 to December 2012. The date you select is when your e2Campus service is terminated. Tungseth recommends selecting a date that coincides with or is near your graduation. Should a Level 2 or 3 emergency occur, Concordia will notify all cell phone numbers registered with e2Campus immediately with a short text message, such as “Fire in Memorial Auditorium. Do not enter the building. If inside, evacuate immediately.” Concordia will also e-mail all faculty, staff, and students at their Concordia address from the sender emergency@cord.edu.

You can also register an additional e-mail address on your e2Campus account if you wish. Detailed information will be given on the website www.ConcordiaEmergency.com, even if the college server is down.

Brown Hall Director Lacey Neuman Bissonnette said, “I think it’s a very good thing.” She said so many students have cell phones, and many don’t use their room phones. She added that e-mail messages may not be checked until after class.

Sophomore Emily Ilse agrees that e2Campus is a welcome addition to the emergency plan. “I always have my phone with me, so if an emergency would happen on campus, I would feel much safer knowing that I would be informed of it right away.”

Even students who don’t have their phone on them 24/7 think e2Campus is beneficial to them. “I don’t always have my phone with me, but if I could know of emergencies as soon as they happen I would carry it around more,” said Melissa Orluck.

Tungseth noted that there will be a test conducted sometime early this fall to test the e2Campus system. All students should be aware that it is just a test.

E2Campus will undoubtedly prove to be a valuable asset to Concordia’s emergency plan because of its ability to notify everyone registered of a danger on campus instantly and concurrently. That’s one mass text you’d be happy to receive.

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