UT Rushes to Get Alert System in Place

By: Jim Freeman, Reporter
By: Jim Freeman, Reporter

Knoxville (WVLT) - The shooting at Virginia Tech last week has quickened the pace for colleges and universities to reevaluate campus safety measures and warning procedures.

Jim freeman takes a look at what UT is doing to get instant notification to its 25,000 students.

Tennessee is wasting little time, one school that put a similar system in place in the fall of 2006 is Penn State University, and it's been very well received.

Last Monday, there were about 4,000 subscribers out of its 42,000 students at the college park campus.

Those numbers have more than doubled in less than a week.

"We've had a surge of subscriptions," says Annemarie Mountz, from Penn State. "We're now above the 10,300 mark for subscribers, so I think it's very well received."

The University of Tennessee is looking into installing a similar-type program called e2Campus that will instantly text message students, staff and faculty.

"The in-thing with young people today is text messaging and so we figured this would be a good way to help expedite messages to them," says UT Police Chief August Washington.

The chief says more than 90% of UT students walk around using cell phones.

"Yeah, just all the time. I mean, I'm looking into getting the unlimited text deal right now, because it's kind of expensive," says UT student Nathan Sims.

Most moms and dads are probably wondering just how much this is going to cost.

"We're estimating that the cost of this system is less than 40-cents a student," says Chief Washington.

"But I think it's great because if Virginia Tech had that same program there I think what happened last week wouldn't have happened," says UT Student Bolanile Olatunji.

Since Monday, the pace and the rules of keeping students safe on college campuses have changed and UT is sprinting to get its instant messaging system in place.

"We're still in the contract negotiating stages and it looks like we're going to have this thing up and running within about a week and a half," says Chief Washington.

UT officials say that this is cell phone based and students will have the option to essentially opt into the system.

Clemson University recently installed a warning siren system.

The University of Memphis has plans to build a system that will act as a school-wide intercom.


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