Recent college shootings highlight need for emergency response system

by Allison UllmanStaff Writer

Simpson is currently in the process of implementing a new emergency notification system. The new system will aid Simpson in communicating with students, faculty and staff via e-mail, voicemail and text messaging.

“I think that over the last 12-to-18 months, there has certainly been a heightened awareness on college campuses across America about the potential need to be able to communicate rapidly with an ever increasingly mobile student population,” Jim Thorius, vice president for student development and dean of students, said.

According to Thorius, the new system is from a company called The NTI Group, Inc. and the product is Connect-Ed.

Thorius said The NTI Group, Inc., has been in the business of developing a service for communication protocols that have been used in a number of different markets, including K-12 schools, military bases and, more recently, for use in higher education.

“The system is supposed to allow us to communicate messages to all of those people who are a part of our campus including students, faculty and staff,” Thorius said. “As I understand it, every recipient can receive messages at up to six separate phone numbers and up to two separate e-mail addresses. So it’s what they call a multi-modal system that will send out voicemail, e-mail and SMS text messages.”

Thorius said while one of the benefits will be the ability to send out text messages, it will also present some difficulty in keeping the information up to date.

“One of the real benefits of the system is to be able to send out text messages,” Thorius said. “That requires then that students, faculty and staff help us keep an updated database on what your cell phone numbers are. It will require some ongoing opportunity for update and change for those kinds of information numbers.”

Director of Security Chris Frerichs said one of the main purposes of the new system is safety.

“One of the main uses is safety-getting time-sensitive information out to individuals as quickly as possible so they understand what’s going on,” Frerichs said. “Obviously it’s for the safety and security of students, faculty, staff and visitors, which is the key objective [of the system]. It’s the ability to keep everyone informed.”

Steve Griffith, academic dean and vice president for academic affairs, said the recent tragedies at schools across the country, most recently at Northern Illinois University, reinforce the need for a notification system to be put in place.

“The benefits are pretty obvious to those who have been reading the news or watching television that there are times where we really need to get the word out about a situation as quickly as possible,” Griffith said. “The things that come to mind are the terrible tragedies that happen on campuses from time to time and hopefully we never have to use it for that purpose but it might also be used in time of a natural disaster or if we need to close the campus for some reason. It will allow us that quick access to students.”

Thorius notes that, on top of the string of campus shootings, natural disasters across the country also illustrate a need for emergency notification systems are becoming more important.

“We were reminded unfortunately last week with the tragedy at Northern Illinois… [and] with the tornado in Tennessee that destroyed multiple residence halls that the emergency notifications systems are becoming a more crucial part of communicating with our communities,” Thorius said.