Tufts Emergency Alert System updates software
Published: Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 23, 2013 18:09
Tufts announced on Aug. 1 that Rave Alert has replaced Send Word Now as the new Tufts Emergency Alert System (TEAS) due to the former’s user-friendly features, according to Director of Emergency Management Geoffrey Bartlett.
The new system is also more accessible for students, Bartlett explained.
“One of the principle things that we were looking at was making it easier for people to maintain their contact information,” Bartlett said.
Bartlett explained that prior to the implementation of the Rave Alert technology, students had to follow an email link that was specific to each individual user in order to access TEAS and input their contact information. Consequentially, the school alert system wound up being underused.
“We weren’t getting as many people enrolled as we would’ve liked,” Bartlett said. “We needed to make it easier for people to maintain their contact information, to submit their contact information and then to put it up if their phone number changes or their carrier changes.”
In contrast, Rave Alert will instantly transfer basic contact information, such as names, affiliations with the university and Tufts email addresses, according to Director of Communication and Organizational Effectiveness Dawn Irish.
Caleb Helbling, a sophomore transfer student who had already signed up with the system, claimed that the process was very straightforward.
“You just put in your phone number and that’s it,” he said. “I thought it was really easy to sign up for.”
Bartlett expressed hope that Rave Alert would lead to an increase in the on-campus utilization of TEAS. He explained that only about 50 percent of people across the university, including staff, faculty and students, currently have a mobile phone number listed in the system.
“That’s a number that we feel strongly needs to be very close to 100 percent,” he said.
Bartlett identified several of Rave Alert’s facilitating features that could help the school achieve this goal, including the fact that students will be able to access the new alert system using their existing Tufts usernames and passwords.
“We don’t want to give people another password to remember,” Bartlett said. “That’s one of the first things that we look at [when choosing systems].”
Bartlett also claimed that Rave Alert will provide enhancements for the people working to send messages in the event of an emergency.
“A limiting factor with the early system is that when we created the message — whether you were getting it by text message, or by email or by a telephone call — it was always the same message,” he said. “And now, we have the ability where we can send a succinct text message, but we can also script a longer email message, and they’ll both go at the same time.”
Bartlett emphasized the importance of rapid texting in the decision to make the switch from Send Word Now.
“The ability for Rave [Alert] to process a high number of text alerts in a short amount of time is one of the better in the industry,” Bartlett said.
“Text messaging remains a very important way to reach people in an emergency because of how quickly you can send text messages it remains to be the best method to get in touch with people in case of an emergency.”
Bartlett explained that texting’s main advantage for sending out emergency messages is its speed.
“If you’re very thoughtful with your words, you can get a lot of information in 160 characters,” he said. “Compare that with the amount of time it would take for a phone call to ring, to be answered and then to deliver that same amount of information with a verbal message.”
Helbling supported Bartlett’s argument with a personal anecdote.
“At my old school they called instead of sending texts, so it took like half an hour for the system to phone everyone,” Helbling said.
Irish explained that the school had utilized Send Word Now since the installation of TEAS in 2007, when the Virginia Tech Massacre prompted changes in the way that many universities approached campus dangers.
“That was the catalyst for a lot of universities,” she said. “That tragedy really brought home the need to have something implemented fairly quickly. The Boston Marathon bombings this spring were another reminder ... of why we have one and why it’s important.”
According to Irish, a system-wide testing of Rave Alert is presently scheduled for Sept. 10.
“The purpose of the test [is] to make sure everything works the way it should,” she said. “If there are any snags or anything, we’ll be monitoring everything on this end so we can make improvements should an emergency occur. We’re expecting a very smooth process.”