CORVALLIS, Ore. – Introduced one year ago, the OSU Alert system has proven to be an effective way to communicate critical information quickly to tens and thousands of Oregon State University students, faculty and staff and other members of the university community.
With the 2009-10 school year now under way, new students and others beginning their careers at OSU are encouraged to log in to the system and customize their individual records, so that if an emergency arises, they’ll be notified by whatever means work best for them.
“One of the many strengths of the OSU Alert system is the ability for users not only to supply multiple ways to contact them, but to prioritize whatever means they prefer,” said OSU Public Safety Director Jack Rogers. “For some, that might mean a text message. For others, a call to their cell phone is best. And others might prefer an e-mail or a call to their office phone.”
OSU launched the system in Fall 2008 with more than 27,000 users. In multiple tests throughout the rest of the 2008-09 school year, the system exceeded expectations, notifying most users within minutes of a message being sent. The university also mobilized it successfully for an actual emergency involving a police standoff with an individual, suspected to be armed, locked in a residence just off campus. No one was injured in that incident.
Since the launch of the OSU Alert, multiple other campuses around the state have rolled out similar systems, most of which use the same Blackboard Connect technology as OSU. The OSU system has also been expanded to include 8,000 more user records.
To access the site, OSU students, faculty and staff should go to http://alert.oregonstate.edu/ and select the “Enter your emergency contact information” link. The site requires users to supply an OSU “ONID” e-mail address and nine-digit OSU identification number.
Each user then sees his or her individual record, with name, address, e-mail, phone numbers, SMS text number and TTY/TDD number (for hearing impaired users) already associated with the record. That information can be modified in whatever way users see fit, and a “Call Preferences” box within the record lets users select which number or address is their preferred means of receiving a message.
“Because each record allows for six phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, an SMS text number and a TTY/TDD number, that allows users to not only input their own information, but numbers for others they’d like contacted in the event of a campus emergency,” said Rogers. “Some students have included a number for one of their parents or a roommate. Faculty and staff members often include a number where a spouse or significant other can be reached. But for everyone, it’s their choice.”
All students, faculty and staff members are encouraged to log in to the system, whether or not they are new to OSU, to ensure currency of their information. Individuals who have obtained a new cell phone number or who have moved and gotten a new home phone number, for instance, should be aware that there is no way for that information to be updated automatically in the OSU Alert system; users must take care of that themselves.
“Logging in and updating your record is very easy and fast,” said Rogers. “Don’t be out of the loop in the event of an emergency. Visit the site and make sure your information is current today.”