Many colleges and universities have a type of emergency alert system installed, an easy way to contact students and faculty members about anything from severe weather updates to the possibility of a hostage situation somewhere on campus.
Boston University's alert system was originally started after the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007 and is now specific enough that it will notify students on certain events depending on where they live. For example, if an assault takes place on East campus, students in West campus may not be directly notified of the occurrence.
"The best thing to do is localize," said Boston University police chief Thomas Robbins in a Daily Free Press article. "Notify people who might be affected in that area and in a short amount of time, get out that message quickly."
Oklahoma State University also recently updated their emergency alert system. Before, it would only notify students and faculty of alerts through phone calls, a notification that many individuals were displeased with because of the timing issues. Within the last month though, OSU has added text message and email notifications.
Gary Shutt, OSU director of communications, said in a Daily O'Collegian article that in the first test of the new system over 22,000 texts were sent out and received within 33 seconds while emails were sent out to 24,000 users and received within one minute and 18 seconds.
In the digital age it is not uncommon for students to receive email, phone and text message alert systems from their universities or colleges during an emergency. However, schools could greatly benefit if they worked with a third party answering service instead of just with an automated response system. A live answering service would be able to give further detailed updates to students if asked and they would be able to take down information and communicate on a more informed level.