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One new message: Don't Panic

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We use text msg alert systems at KSL -- we send out breaking news/traffic/weather alerts to people who have subscribed (if you want to subscribe, text the word "news" to 57500). We also have an internal msg system where the Channel Five assignment desk will text everyone if there's breaking news. That way, wherever reporters are, they have the quick info and address of the story right away.

Now the U of U is considering using text messaging as part of a way to quickly alert students of a campus emergency. Their security task force is looking at many different options, and says since most students have a cell phone it could be a good way to reach them. But there are some problems -- carriers have told them that sending out such a message to thousands of cell phones could take hours, or even a day. That's not too quick. Another concern is that some professors ask students to turn off phones as class begins. Texting and phones ringing are definitley a distraction. A third concern from the task force is, what do you text that won't panic some into leaving class and running out into harm's way?

That third concern though could go for any alert system they are considering, like a campus-wide PA system or the loudspeakers at Rice-Eccles. If I heard a loudspeaker telling me there was a shooting on campus I wonder what I would do.

The U of U says right now their campus emergency alert plan includes radio and telephone. But honestly, how many college students listen to the radio or have a landline? Most have ipods and cell phones. We would like more college students to listen to KSL Newsradio...but I digress. The task force is also looking at email, electronic message boards, and more multi-media options.

I do know the Daily Utah Chronicle spoke to some students about what they think, and some said students would get a text message faster than an email. But others said since they have to turn off their phones in class it might not work that well.


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Mary Richards


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