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RVC to start campus alert system

Monday, February 09, 2009  
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By Cathy Bayer
RRSTAR.COM
Posted Feb 09, 2009 @ 09:05 PM

ROCKFORD — Rock Valley College is launching an alert system, which will make its campus safer and increase communication during an emergency.

The alert system, called RVC Alerts, will notify students via text message, voice mail or e-mail of any kind of on-campus emergency or alert. Students also can add their parents to the alert system, by adding a parent’s phone line or e-mail address as one of the available contact options.

Students can sign up for the alerts at rockvalleycollege.edu/alert.

School officials rolled out the mass-notification system Jan. 12 and they plan to test the system in March.

RVC Alerts would send messages to students and faculty in case of an emergency or threat, but also could be used in cases of a gas leak, broken pipe or a closed building entrance, said Nancy Chamberlain, director of communications for Rock Valley College.

Officials haven’t had to use the notification system yet, and so far, about 1,000 people have enrolled.

Chamberlain said she is hoping more students enroll if there’s another snow day that cancels classes, she said.

It’s a coincidence that the program is up-and-running nearly a year after the shootings at Northern Illinois University. The emergency preparedness committee was meeting when word spread of the NIU shootings, Chamberlain said.

Because of increasing technology levels, it seems like all institutions are looking into programs like this, Chamberlain said.

“Emergency preparedness is not new,” said Suzanne Berger, the vice president for institutional advancement.

Berger is in her 40th year in public education.

Administrators always have been concerned with student safety, whether it’s concerning a fire, tornado or bomb threat, she said.

She called the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., the “benchmark,” and now, terrorist-type concerns are relevant, she said.

In 2008, an emergency-response plan was created that details how people on campus should react to an emergency. This year, a broader version was created.

Last year, the school started a public-address system, a way to deliver a message throughout speakers on Rock Valley’s satellite campus.

That would be the first step in case of an emergency during business hours, and RVC Alerts is a way to develop that further.

The goal is to broaden the scope of safety, said Dave Costello, a publicist and Web coordinator for Rock Valley College. School officials will publish information on the college’s Web site and also will rely on the media to alert people of campus emergencies.

“It’s always at the top of our minds at our institution,” Chamberlain said.

Rockford College has a similar system, called RC Alert, that’s been around for about six months, said Chuck Brown, spokesman for Rockford College.

The emergency notification system sends messages to students through cell phone, text message or e-mail, he said. The system has, so far, only been used to announce a snow day.

Between 20 percent and 25 percent of students at Rockford College have signed up for the program, which is average, Brown said. He’s heard that even after the shootings at Virginia Tech, school officials couldn’t get many more than that same amount to sign up for the alert system, he said.

“It’s a smart option,” Brown said.

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