JBU Initiates Crisis Alert System

Siloam Springs, Ark. (February 7, 2008) — On Wednesday afternoon, more than 2500 students, faculty and staff of John Brown University received an e-mail from JBU’s Crisis Alert System. Of those, 359 also received automated text messages and 480 also received automated phone calls. Fortunately, there was no crisis at any JBU campus. The messages were a test of JBU’s new communications system, which JBU will employ in the event of an actual emergency. “The test went well,” said Ray West, director of internet services. “We were able to deliver messages to all of our faculty, staff and students in a very short time. We also learned a few things that we can do to improve the system if we ever have to use it for a real emergency. We are pleased with the system and the additional security it provides our faculty, staff and students.” In a day when our societal security is continually being challenged and when technology has raised the bar of expectations for the speed of communication within organizations, JBU has taken a proactive step to help ensure the safety of its campus communities by setting up the new campus-wide Crisis Alert System (CAS). In the event of an emergency on campus – a tornado warning, a bomb threat, or some other event in which people may be in immediate danger – JBU administrators can send information and instructions to everyone on campus through the CAS almost instantaneously. Everyone with a JBU e-mail address will receive a CAS e-mail message, and those who opt to receive messages in other ways can also get text and voice messages from the CAS. “While we hope that we never have to use the system, the reality is that significant situations do happen, and we need to be prepared to alert our JBU community in the event of a crisis,” said Steve Beers, vice president for student development and chairman of JBU’s crisis team. “We expect that the system will get used most often during tornado warnings, and it will help us better communicate with people on campus about those events.” Just this week, the importance of such an alert system was demonstrated when Union University (Tenn.) was struck by a tornado that seriously damaged buildings including residence halls. The ability to warn people, prompting them to move to secure shelters may be the difference between life and death. “We are very happy to be implementing this system now. It is comforting to know that we’re prepared to help students, faculty and staff be safe by giving them the information they need when they need it,” Beers said. The JBU CAS allows administrators to target alert messages to students, faculty and staff on any of JBU’s eight Arkansas locations. In the event of a crisis, only the people on the affected campuses will receive instructions from the CAS. The JBU CAS also allows students, faculty and staff to sign up for optional notices about non-crisis events that may impact people’s normal routines. When necessary, administrators can send notices to inform any JBU community about campus closings due to weather, disruptions due to construction, flu outbreaks within the community, and other events that may require someone to change their normal campus activity. Since JBU’s system was installed in January, the university has already sent a few preliminary messages informing people about weather-related closings and tornado watches. With the successful completion of the CAS test yesterday, JBU administrators feel confident to begin employing the system as a standard communication tool.