Baylor's Emergency Communication System Adds Text Messaging Capability

Oct. 10, 2007

Media contact: Lori Fogleman, director of media communications, (254) 710-6275

A year ago, Baylor University selected Connect-ED, a fast multi-modal communication service, to deliver time-sensitive notifications to students, faculty and staff in the event of an emergency. Baylor recently fully implemented the service to provide campus leaders and security professionals the ability to reach all students with information and updates during unforeseen events or emergencies, within minutes, through phone calls, e-mails and text messages.

"We are doing everything possible to be prepared for any kind of emergency situation on our campus, including having multiple systems in place to communicate accurately and expeditiously with students, faculty and staff in times of crisis or emergency," said Baylor President John M. Lilley.

The text-messaging feature of this emergency notification system requires that Baylor faculty, staff and students OPT-IN for emergency text messages. After you provide a text-enabled phone number via Baylor's secure web portal, the BEARS-Connect-ED service automatically sends a text message to that phone with a confirmation request during business hours (8 a.m. to 4 p.m. CT). You will be instructed to reply to the text message. Contact information included in the emergency notification system will only be used for campus emergency notifications and will not be made available to any other service.

Click here for an FAQ on opting-in to the text messaging feature.

"Baylor University recognizes the important role that immediate communication plays in keeping students safe and informed during emergency situations, such as a severe storm or campus closure," said Warren Ricks, director of risk management at Baylor. "As part of our comprehensive comprehensive crisis management plan, we have added the Connect-ED service because of its successful track record and multi-modal capabilities that will allow us to keep students, faculty and staff informed whether they are in their residence hall, off-campus home, sitting in front of their computers, or on their way to class."

The Connect-ED emergency notification service enables campus leaders to schedule, send and track personalized voice messages to up to six phone numbers per person, and immediately sends messages via four different modes of communication:

Voice messages to home, work and cell phones
Text messages to cell phones, PDAs and other text-based devices
Written messages to e-mail accounts
Messages to TTY/TDD receiving devices for the hearing impaired

"Incidents at other universities brought to everyone's attention the importance of early and quick notification of emergencies affecting campus," Ricks said. "It is essential for students, faculty and staff to provide us with their current contact information. The more avenues we have to contact individuals, the better our odds are of communicating timely information and updates and keeping everyone safe."

The university did test the emergency communication service during a weather situation last March, which officials describe as a "learning experience."

"There are a finite number of phones lines for calls going in and out of campus," Ricks said. "When a large volume of calls are automatically made through this system, it does fill those lines and the calls have to queue up. We found many distribution groups included in the system that did not need this notification, and that caused a slow delivery of voice messages. We have trimmed down the groups, so the delivery of the voice message should be much quicker."

Ricks also said the system's text messaging capability was not fully available at that time. Baylor has since included texting as a messaging option.

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