Knox College has recently implemented an emergency alert service for the Knox Warning system in such events as severe winter storms, boil orders for unsafe water, or alerts similar to the outreach message sent out last Friday when the basement of SMC flooded and caused the computer system to be entirely shut down. This new alert system is called the Connect-Ed System, and though the contract was signed last March, it was not in effect until June of 2008. All of the other alert systems that were in effect before Connect-Ed began, such as email alerts, voicemail alerts, and PA announcements, are also still in effect.
When asked why Knox felt the need to upgrade to such a system, Director of Campus Safety John Schlaf said, “Knox, like other colleges, has continued to try and upgrade [the] existing communications system, which has included safety notification systems. But also, events like the tragic deaths on the Virginia Campus prompted changes in various laws which required the use of ‘immediate notification’ systems.”
The most recent time the system was used was last Friday, to alert students about the SMC flooding.
The job of Knox’s Campus Warning Committee is to review existing alert systems and figure out how to improve those that might be implemented in the future. Schlaf said, “The text and voice delivery to cellular telephone was one of those recommendations [made by the Campus Warning Committee], as was the selection of Connect-ED after a review of various systems on the market at the time.”
The new system will not cost Knox students any money. The $6,500 annual cost has “been absorbed into the existing Campus Safety Budget without specific impact or separate charge to student fees,” Schlaf said.
One reason students might be less than enthused to use the system is a fear that their inboxes will be flooded with constant alerts. The difference between what the system deems an urgent situation or a complete emergency might be the deciding factor for students with this concern. “The Connect-ED Systems permits two types of messages to be sent. The first is termed a ‘Community Outreach’ message which may be considered ‘urgent’ but not an ‘emergency’. The second type is an ‘Emergency’ message,” Schlaf said. “Even though some institutions have elected to use the outreach option for everything from sports announcements to class room schedules, we have attempted to limit the number of messages on the system.”
Chris Mouzakitis also contributed to this story.