Text Message Emergency Alerts Will Begin for Area College Students

Article excerpt

When a gunman opened fire and killed more than 30 people at Virginia Tech in April, Josh Lloyd turned to his computer to reach a high school friend who attended classes there.

"I knew I had a friend who went there and wanted to find out if he was OK," said Lloyd, 20, of North Versailles, a junior at Slippery Rock University. The e-mail exchange confirmed that his friend, Todd Hunter, 20, was safe.

In the aftermath of the massacre, questions arose over how Virginia Tech attempted to alert students. Some students complained they got no warning until an e-mail arrived more than two hours after the first shots rang out.

Josh Lloyd will be among 8,500 Slippery Rock students who can register this month for an emergency alert system that sends text messages to cell phones.

"It sounds like a good idea. It would get (the alerts) out faster," said Lloyd, who is studying physical education.

E-mail is good if you know the recipient is sitting in front of a computer, he said.

Slippery Rock, Carlow and Pitt are starting text messaging emergency alert systems this year. Penn State and St. Vincent College implemented text messaging emergency alert systems last year.

Parents can register to receive the same alerts.

That's a feature that Josh's father, Jim Lloyd likes. It would give parents a heads up "instead of catching it on the news and trying to scramble."

"It will help tremendously. I have one (son) at California University and one at Slippery Rock," he said.

At Slippery Rock, text messaging was an easy choice, said spokeswoman Rita Abent.

"If nothing else, (students) have cell phones," she said.

Slippery Rock started considering an emergency alert system after a snowstorm last winter forced the cancellation of classes. The Web- based alert system sends emergency messages to cell phones, allowing officials "to reach more people quicker," she said.

The University of Pittsburgh stepped up its plans to start an emergency alert system following the Virginia Tech shootings, said Jinx Walton, director of computing services and system development. …