U launches text alert service

University students, faculty and staff can now receive emergency notifications via text messaging.

On Friday the University debuted TXT-U, a text messaging system designed to notify the University community of emergency situations on campus.

Director of emergency management Terry Cook said the intent of TXT-U is to reach people as quickly as possible.

“If they happen to be on campus they can take the protective measures,” he said.

The University community can register for the free service on the University Emergency Preparedness Web site. However, users might be charged a fee if their cell phone carriers charge for receiving text messages.

If parents of University students are interested in receiving TXT-U, students may add them to their account.

After several recent bomb threats on campus and the shootings at Virginia Tech, University officials realized the importance of reaching the University community with different methods, Cook said.

First-year nutrition student Raven Krautkramer said sending out emergency notifications through e-mail isn’t as effective as it should be.

“I don’t always have time to check my e-mail, but I always have my cell phone,” she said. “Texting is a very popular thing on campus.”

Tim Busse, director of communications for University Services, said officials started the service because of the reliance on text messaging.

“Younger folks, especially students, are more reliant on text messaging than they are e-mailing,” he said. “It’s a more reliable and quicker way to reach people.”

The University’s goal is to have 50 percent of the campus community signed up for TXT-U within the next six months, Cook said.

As of Friday, about 5,000 people signed up for the service, Dan Wolter, University spokesman, said.

First-year environmental science student Hannah Bergemann said TXT-U is something everybody on campus should take advantage of.

“Everyone should sign up for it, that’s just a given,” she said.

TXT-U will only be used for emergency events on campus, not for crime alerts, Busse said.

“If there’s a true emergency on campus, they want to use as many means as possible because one way isn’t going to catch everybody,” he said.

TXT-U is operated by Wireless Emergency Notification System and is designed to send text messages to mobile devices during an emergency.

The system is designed to transcend delays in message delivery and communication like those that occurred during the Interstate 35W bridge collapse, Scott Dettling, founder and president of Inspiron Logistics, said.

“The size of a text message is about one-one-thousandth the size of the data required for one second of a voice call,” Dettling said.

After the text is sent, those who are registered should receive the message in two to three minutes, Cook said.

Dettling said WENS uses short message service technology, a type of “push technology” that informs users without them having to check any e-mail inbox. Such a system is best because students are not always in their dorm rooms, he said.

“What other way are you going to notify these individuals in a timely manner when it’s so important that they may be walking into danger?” Dettling said.

In the future, TXT-U will be introduced to the Crookston, Rochester and Morris campuses. However, the Duluth campus has its own emergency notification service in place.

“It’s one more tool, it’s one more thing that we can use to get the word out and notify the University community of an emergency,” Busse said.