Friday, March 9, 2012
By Wendell Hahm
Southern Wesleyan University (“SWU”) approached CallFire with an interesting problem. Based in the Midwest, snowstorms, tornadoes, forest fires and hurricanes are signatures of the four seasons. Schools and universities today are required to send emergency notifications to their students and staff with emergency weather updates (Clery Act (Public Law 110-315, 2008)). Managing such SMS alerts has become increasingly simple with SMS text messaging emergency notification. With strict legal requirements on ensuring that a message securely gets properly transmitted to the recipient, the challenge is making sure everyone receives this emergency SMS text message. In the case of Southern Wesleyan there were four requirements: •Federal telecommunications laws require OptIN and OptOUT permissions from the cell phone owner. •Some cell phone plans require a subscription process to accept your SMS messages. •Emergencies by definition require quick activation. •Schools and offices want to minimize the maintenance of the phone lists and the OptIN/OUT procedures. With CallFire’s new SMS text messaging platform, Southern Wesleyan University was able to build an effective notification program: •CallFire’s SMS Keyword service provides quick and low maintenance emergency service •SWU purchased a keyword: i.e. schoolAlert for $25/month. SMS messages costs only $0.03 per person. Sending 1000 alerts costs only $30. •To enroll participants, SWU sent out out emails or brochures advising the school of the service. The alert service was also announced in weekly convocations. To enroll, students and staff text a message “subscribe schoolAlert” to one of CallFire’s short code numbers: 67076 •Subscribers received an immediate feedback :”Congratulations you are subscribed to the Southern Wesleyan University Alert service.” •Students and staff who did not receive this “Congratulations” text message were told to call the schools emergency number. CallFire collects and trouble shoots these cellphone problems for the school to guarantee their inclusion in the alert service. •CallFire maintains the emergency phone list for the school. When students or staff leave the school they simply text an “unsubscribe schoolAlert” to the short code number, 67076, to discontinue the service. •CallFire sent SWU emergency notification and security staff a 1 page checklist. Staff could send out a text message within minutes just following the directions. This month the tornadoes approached SWU. Students received quick and accurate information on how to prepare for these storms. According to Joseph Brockinton, SWU Vice President for Student life "The Alert went well. I was in my office and was able to use the 'cheat' sheet and everything went smoothly. We sent out OPT In emails and have run notices on our chapel announcement screens prior to and following chapel. Bottom line: The system worked." CallFire works with many states and municipalities to mange emergency notifications. Our cloud based SMS emergency notification system makes sending important messages at critical times easy and with very little costs.