September 2007 - Mobivity

SMS Emergency Alerts Only Work When There Is Someone to Alert!

Posted by | General, Mobile Experience, SMS | No Comments

Since the tragic event at Virginia Tech, many schools have scrambled to install emergency notification systems that use text messaging. One of those schools was St. John’s University in New York City.

When a masked man carrying a rifle in a bag strolled onto campus earlier this week, the system was put to a test.

There is an excellent New York Times article about it that is worth a read.

While the system worked perfectly, I was amazed to find out that only 2100 students had subscribed.

Though only 2,100 students were signed up for the program, the text message, and two more that followed, spread within seconds, which Dr. Pellow said “allowed us to manage this mini-city of 20,000 people.��?

Jonathan Azara, 18, who was helping enroll students in the program yesterday, said many of his peers had initially hesitated because they were afraid of receiving spam. Others thought the system would convey more ordinary information, like snow days.

Huh?? 20,000 people, and only 2,100 had signed up? If kids are not signing up because they fear receiving SMS spam, then the University is not communicating the purpose of this system correctly. Why does it take an incident before people realize and pay attention?

By yesterday afternoon, administrators said the number of subscribers had reached 6,542.

Out of the 20,000 people that are a part of the University, I would go so far as to say that at least 19,900 have a mobile phone that receives SMS. I hope the other Universities are taking notice of this and will step up their efforts to sign people up. At a minimum you would think that every staff member would participate.

While I applaud St. John’s for putting the system in place, I think it is completely unacceptable that one month into the school year they only had 10% participation.

We can deliver the emergency message instantly, but it’s up to the organization to make sure there are people to deliver that message to.


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