Center for Information Technology Services

UMB Emergency Communications to Include Text Messaging

The recent tragic events at Virginia Tech have prompted CITS to take action to improve emergency communications here at UMB.  Our current method of broadcasting email campus-wide can take upwards of four hours to propagate through the system.  In the event that we have an incident of the magnitude of Virginia Tech we need to get information to the campus in a matter of minutes, not hours. 

The new technology, for which we are presently in the process of evaluating vendors, will allow us to send “SMS” (text) based messages to cell phones in combination with emails and a web page alert.  The system will be hosted off-site for security and speed.  Students, faculty and staff will be able to opt in to the service.  All those who opt in will become a member of the “everyone” group who would be targeted for emergency communication in case of a life-threatening event. 

We will also have the capability to create sub-groups that users will be able to opt into which could communicate weather- related emergencies, campus closings, special events, traffic reports etc.  These sub-groups will be voluntary opt-in so that users will not be getting messages they do not wish to receive, whereas members of the “everyone” emergency communications group will not be able to opt out, for safety’s sake.

Look for further details in future postings on CITS Bits.  If you have questions in the meantime you are welcome to contact Fred Smith, IT Security Officer and Executive Director, Networking and Communications.