Roanoke College

Roanoke College implements Maroon Alert text messaging system

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Salem, Va.-As students begin to return to the Roanoke College campus, the College is rolling out a new emergency notification service called "Maroon Alerts." The mass text messaging system gives the College the ability to contact students quickly via text messages on cell phones and by e-mail.

Even with phones, e-mail and other methods of communication, students, faculty and staff can be difficult to contact when they are in class or outside on campus. This fact was highlighted in April following the tragic events at Virginia Tech. Maroon Alerts gives Roanoke College staff an additional method of contacting the campus community in the event of an emergency or a bad weather situation.

Maroon Alerts are provided through E2Campus, an off-site vendor. Using a system outside the College computer network helps ensure consistent communications, especially in the event of a campus event affecting electricity or computing capability. Roanoke plans to use Maroon Alerts for two main purposes: for inclement weather requiring a change in the College schedule and for any incidents posing an imminent threat to the health and safety of the College community. Maroon Alerts will be supplemented by the usual communication methods, which include campus e-mails and weather changes announced through local media.

Maroon Alerts is an "opt-in" system, meaning students, faculty and staff must sign up for the service themselves at www.roanoke.edu/maroonalerts. The sign-up process asks for a cell phone number and then sends a text message to that number with a verification code. Once the code is received on the cell phone, users enter the it and then update the page with the preferred e-mail address.

Cell phone numbers of faculty, staff and students will not be sold or used in ways other than for distribution of Maroon Alerts. If a subscriber needs to update a cell phone number or e-mail address or wishes to be removed from the system, the same Web site is used to make changes to Maroon Alert preferences.

Cell phone providers limit the length of text messages so Maroon Alerts will be very brief and likely direct subscribers to the College Web site for additional details. As an example, if a tornado warning were issued for the Salem area, subscribers would receive a Maroon Alert that reads: "Tornado warning. Shelter inside away from windows. See www.roanoke.edu."

In addition to Maroon Alerts, the Campus Safety office has developed an "All Hazards Community Checklist" to give the campus helpful tips for in the case of several emergency scenarios. The checklist includes an "Active Shooter Protocol" to help the campus community know what to do in a situation where there is immediate threat to safety, such as the one at Virginia Tech. The checklist also includes tips for dealing with medical emergencies, severe weather and fire. The All Hazards checklist also includes instructions for "Sheltering in Place." Following the Virginia Tech events, many media outlets recommended "locking down" campuses like they would for a single high school. While collegewide lockdowns are generally not feasible for most schools, Sheltering in Place offers help in ways to secure the area where you are when an emergency begins. The safety of the students, faculty, staff and guests on the Roanoke College campus continues as a priority for Roanoke College. These latest efforts will improve communications and give individuals information on actions they can take to be prepared in an emergency.

For more on Roanoke's safety program, click here: http://web.roanoke.edu/x12227.xml?refurl=x12227.xml.