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New emergency communication system launched

Aug. 3, 2010

KALAMAZOO--Registration has been launched for a new Western Michigan University emergency communication system that is designed to place thousands of phone calls to students, faculty and staff within minutes after an extreme campus emergency has been identified.

WMU Alert, part of a Reverse 911 phone system purchased by the University, was formally activated yesterday and had more than 1,000 people register during the first day it was available. Any member of the campus community can register a phone number to receive notification of emergency situations. The registered phone number may be a cell, office or home phone number--the number of any phone at which the person registering is most likely to be found.

If an extreme emergency is identified, the system's mass call option will be activated, sending voice messages to all numbers registered to receive them. The system is capable of making approximately 4,000 calls per minute. Text messaging is not part of the system because text messaging has a lower delivery priority and is not considered appropriate for the extreme emergencies for which WMU Alert is designed.

To register for WMU Alert, members of the campus community should sign in to the GoWMU portal and click on the WMU Alert icon found at the top of the main page. The voluntary registration is only for the emergency call system, and phone numbers registered will not be used by the University for any other purpose.

"We're asking everybody to register their phone numbers, but except for periodic testing of the system, we don't want to ever actually use those numbers," says Lowell Rinker, vice president for business and finance. "We feel this is an important addition to our emergency notification capabilities, but it will only work if those who register know a call that comes to them through this system is urgent and requires their immediate attention."

Calls received through WMU Alert will reflect a caller ID number of (269) 387-0911.

A small number of administrators and public safety officials are authorized to activate the system. Messages can be quickly tailored to suit any emergency, but several pre-recorded messages are also in place to provide clear, concise notification covering several possible situations. The phone messages will offer immediate directions for responding to the emergency identified. In most cases, recipients will be asked to go to the University's home page or the WMU Hotline at (269) 387-1001 for follow-up information.

WMU Alert is the latest of a number of tools WMU has put in place to notify the campus when an emergency situation develops. They include a campuswide outdoor speaker system, interior speakers in many buildings, some 700 800-MHz police radios distributed around campus and Web, e-mail and phone protocols.

For more information about the new system, contact Cam Vossen, WMU emergency management administrator, at (269) 387-0678.

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Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
(269) 387-8400