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New U. of I. emergency alert system will provide instant updates

7/1/2011 | Todd Short, Division of Public Safety | 217-244-4877; tshort@illinois.edu

[ Email | Share ] CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — University of Illinois security officials say a more robust emergency alert system will provide subscribers with instant updates using multiple communications media including text, email, social networking posts, digital signs, and Web pop-up alerts.

The “auto-posting” feature is one of many promised improvements expected after the university signed a new emergency alert agreement June 30 with Massachusetts-based Rave Mobile Safety. University officials will be able to send emergency messages to all modes of communication with a single action. Emergency messages will simultaneously be delivered by text message, email, Web alerts, etc.

U. of I. Police Lt. Todd Short said the new system, to be tested during the summer, will enhance the campus’s ability to effectively disseminate emergency communications by using a multimodal platform.

“It is imperative for the campus populace to receive emergency messages as quickly as possible,” Short said. “Given today’s technology, it is equally imperative for the campus to use multiple mechanisms to ensure the greatest number of users receive the message in a timely manner. The new system will be able to send emergency messages more quickly than the previous system and will distribute these messages in more formats. This will allow the campus community to receive critical information so they can take appropriate personal protective measures in the event of an emergency.”

Using robust infrastructure and improved sending methods, Rave promises to deliver emergency messages rapidly to users.

Two other features, Rave Guardian and EyeWitness, will provide additional platforms to increase public safety.

Guardian allows any user with a Web-enabled cellphone to activate a “panic button” that will immediately alert police to a problem and open communications between the user and Public Safety telecommunicators. Additionally, Guardian has a precautionary timer that acts as a digital alternative to a campus walking escort. A user will be able to set the estimated time needed to walk to a destination. If that time expires and the user has not canceled the timer, a Public Safety telecommunicator will call to ensure that the user is safe.

EyeWitness allows anyone who witnesses a crime to initiate a text message conversation with a Public Safety telecommunicator. This service allows anyone to text the U. of I. Police Department to expedite a law-enforcement response.

The campus’s previous alert system cost about $63,000 to install and included a $2,500 annual maintenance fee; the Rave system will cost the campus $62,500 annually.

The increased capacity to disseminate emergency messages quickly and the ability to integrate additional security features with a proven vendor for the campus population made the decision to purchase the Rave product relatively easy, officials said.

“The safety of the campus community is our No. 1 priority,” Short said. “Even in times of economic crisis, we would rather spend the extra dollars to have a product that can help save someone’s life.”

Rave’s emergency notification system has a proven record of high performance. It has been tested and used during real emergency situations. Rave is used by other universities, including Oklahoma State University, Purdue University, the University of North Carolina and the University of Wisconsin.

Rave was the most qualified vendor based on the specified needs of the campus, Short said. The prior vendor did not bid on the new contract.

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