Safety goes high-tech at U of C

<p>A new security system at the University of Calgary will be dialing students’ cellphones to alert them of campus emergencies starting this fall.</p>


Text-messages to be sent out in case of emergency



Chris Bolin/metro Calgary


Ken Kress, manager of campus security for the University of Calgary, displays a cellphone yesterday in the campus security dispatch room. The U of C will implement a new text-messaging alert service for students and staff on campus this fall.

A new security system at the University of Calgary will be dialing students’ cellphones to alert them of campus emergencies starting this fall.

U of C students are being asked by campus security to register online for a program that will use text-messaging to inform those on campus of potential security breaches and threats to safety.

The new safety measure comes in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings that killed 33 people and injured 25 others as post-secondary institutes across the continent reviewed security systems and how information is disseminated to their students.

With the prevalence of cellphones, Ken Kress, head of campus security at the U of C, says implementing the text-messaging system makes good sense.

“Very few (cellphone users) don’t text-message, I would guess, so it’s a very effective way to reach out and communicate with our campus members,” he said.

Students will be able to sign up for the alerts on the Internet by providing their cellphone numbers, which will be logged with the provider that will send out the mass messages in the event of an emergency, Kress explained, adding only those who have signed up will receive the emergency texts.

“One thing I like about the initiative is the fact that it is the student’s choice,” said U of C students’ union president Julie Bogle.

Bogle said although the students’ union wasn’t consulted on the text-messaging service, providing students with added security is always a priority.

“We are always in favour of pro-active safety initiatives for students,” she said.

Kress, meanwhile, couldn’t give an example of an event that might prompts a mass text-message alert, saying only U of C administration would determine when to use the system.

But key to the new system’s success, said Kress, is getting as many students as possible on board with the voluntary program.

“The goal is to get as many people as possible signed up for it,” he said, noting since it is a university initiative, the service will come at no cost to students.

“I think it will be very effective. Hopefully, (there’s) a good sign-up rate of people using it — staff, students, visitors, everyone involved. The more people you have signed up, the more effective it will be.”

The official roll out of the program is set for the start of the upcoming school year.

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