College gains an Edge on campus notification system

The College administration is currently working through NJEdge, a statewide consortium that focuses on improving technology on college campuses, to update the campus’ notification system in the event of a crisis.

According to Matt Golden, director of communications and media relations, the College would like to implement an emergency text messaging system early this fall.

“This is one component of a revamped critical incident plan,” Golden said. “We need to use the Web, our phone system and our mass e-mail in the event of a crisis.”

The critical incident plan is the College’s contingency plan in the event of an on-campus crisis such as the Virginia Tech massacre last April.

At least 13 communications vendors submitted bids to be contracted through NJEdge. It will review the components of each vendors’ offer and then narrow the field down to three early next month. A committee of representatives from the College will then analyze the choices in September. College president R. Barbara Gitenstein will select a bidder at the end of the month.

“We’re taking our time with this because we want to make sure we purchase a package that will run seamlessly,” Golden said.

Nadine Stern, vice president of Information Technologies, explained that the text messaging system will not be used for special announcements. The College will continue to send mass e-mails to the student body in the event of a general announcement.

“At the basic level, we will let our faculty, staff and students give us a phone number and we will send a text message to that number in an emergency situation only,” Nadine Stern, vice president of information technologies, said.

According to Stern, the critical incident plan was under review months before the Virginia Tech shootings, but the decision to upgrade the communications component was spurred on by the tragedy. When NJEdge began to compile lists of vendors, the College decided working through them would be the best option.

“By going through NJEdge we will get a quality system,” Stern said. “If we need to send 6,000 text messages out, we can be sure the system won’t get bogged down.”

Golden said the College is updating other parts of its “critical incident plan” in conjunction with the text messaging program.

“We’re in the process of updating the Web alert program. We had been posting our emergency notifications in a red box on the College’s home page,” Golden said. “We’re looking to have it appear on not just the home page, but departmental Web sites, the library Web site, in SOCS and on campus organization’s Web sites. We want to be able to hit as many people who are on (the College’s) Web pages as possible.”

Golden also stressed the importance of consistent updates to the critical incident plan.

“It’s a working document, it should be reviewed periodically, not just after a major crisis. There are certain components that by their nature have to be upgraded,” Golden said. “We can’t complete this review and then put it on the shelf for the next five years.”