College changes emergency alert system after tsunami scare

Marymount’s adoption of the e2Campus platform follows a year in which many campuses saw major changes to the way students are alerted of weather and safety emergencies, along with everyday announcements.

Officials from Blackboard’s Connect division announced July 11 that new features available through the company’s alert program would include customization, easier targeting of specific student groups, and the option of sending messages via Apple mobile devices.

Blackboard’s updated notification system uses technology from AlertNow, a company used in more than 2,200 K-12 school districts that was bought by Blackboard in 2010.

The growing number of campuses using notification systems was evident this spring, when schools across the Midwest kept students and their parents updated about school closings and weather warnings as tornadoes ripped through towns and cities.

Blackboard’s Connect system dispatched more than 18 million school alerts in a single day in May.

Web-based emergency alert systems drew national attention after a gunman at Virginia Tech killed 32 people in April 2007. University officials waited at least two hours to warn the campus community of the first shootings.

Virginia Tech’s emergency system worked flawlessly Dec. 8 when a campus police officer was shot and killed by a student from a nearby campus.

“Every student has received copious amounts of text messages and eMails giving play by plays of everything going on today,” said Ryan Waddell, a junior political science major at Virginia Tech who was in his dorm room when he received the first text alert. “We feel confident in Virginia Tech’s ability to alert and protect us. … None of us feel like we’re in immediate danger.”