By Heather Gardiner
Text away, say the University of Calgary’s security personnel — as long as its to notify students of an on-campus emergency.
The U of C implemented their emergency text messaging system this month in response to the fatal Dawson College and Virginia Tech shootings.
Lawrence Robinson, Ryerson Security and Emergency Services Manager said Ryerson is looking into emergency communication broadly, not specifically text messaging. Robinson said these plans are currently under the Council of Ontario Universities review.
The new system at U of C enables the university to send a widespread text message to everyone that signs up for the list, alerting them of any serious emergency on campus.
“It’s a new communication tool that will allow us to respond quickly, directly and we assume efficiently to the awareness of our campus,” U of C Security Director Lanny Fritz said.
Fritz said the school’s current e-mail alert system, the same one that Ryerson uses, takes 2.5 hours to send one widespread e-mail.
Fritz and Robinson agree that the greatest challenge with this new system is determining what emergencies qualify for a warning text.
“We’re still in the throws of figuring that out,” said Fritz. “We’re putting together a focus group of students and faculty to determine the threshold.”
“It will include life-threatening situations, an obvious example being a shooter, and anything that seriously affects the business of the campus, such as a severe weather storm,” said Fritz.
Fritz said 2,200 to 2,300 students have signed up for the free service.
Ryerson students are divided as to the whether Ryerson should adopt a similar system to U of C’s.
Scott Bailie, a fourth-year Computer science student, said, “There’s no reason not to sign up for it. I like to feel safe on campus, as long as the school doesn’t rely on this single form of communication to let us know of danger.”
Adam Hale, a third-year Technical Theatre student said he “probably wouldn’t sign up because I don’t trust Ryerson to keep my cell phone information private. I’ll get text messages about things like campus events. It could also spread more panic because text messages can be easily misunderstood.”
U of C paid Rogers Communications a $3,500 activation fee and it will cost $2,400 each year to maintain. The operating cost is 25 cents a message. Despite the cost, Fritz is confident this system will be more effective in ensuring campus safety.