Even though Eckerd has had AlertFind for more than a year, Paquet hasnt been forced to use it yet. The college is billed by the message [the pricing ranges greatly and is customized per client, depending upon the number of users and service options], so Paquet is being very careful. The cost can be as low as $1 per student, per year. "I safeguard my messages religiously," Paquet said. "Weve been segmenting our lists on campus, so that were down to classes, dorm roomsthings like that so we can really target messages in the event that everybody really is on campus during an emergency. That way we can notify a finite group of people [if the threat doesnt affect the entire campus].""Somewhere around 75 percent of our students come from out of state, and so a lot of them have cell phones of their own or end up getting one here," he said. "We did a push last semester to get everybodys latest contact info, andalthough the students are busy and not quick to respond to an e-mail from mail, necessarilywe ended up getting 1,490 cell phone numbers [out of about 1,800 students], so thats actually pretty good." Middlebury College, established 150 years ago, is in the process of installing AlertFind now. Located in Middlebury, Vt., Middlebury also operates the C.V. Starr-Middlebury Schools Abroad at 28 sites in 12 countries. With students, faculty and staff in Middlebury and spread around the world, it would be difficult to deliver emergency instructions or account for college community members in the event of a crisis or disaster. Once the new system is implemented, Middlebury will be able to rapidly and automatically communicate with faculty, staff and students in the event of any crisis or disaster. Administrators will no longer have to distribute critical messages manually through a broadcast e-mail or voice mail. When an incident occurs, Middlebury crisis managers will be able to quickly and automatically send important notifications to affected community members. As long as the recipient has access to a landline, text messaging device, cell phone or e-mail, he or she can receive an emergency notification anywhere around the world. The system, which can differentiate between a real person and voice mail, is able to deliver a spoken electronic or recorded message and even ask questions such as, "Are you OK?" in the event of a crisis. These responses will be available to crisis managers in real time. "We want to be proactive in ensuring the safety of the college community and this system provides one step we can take toward that goal," said Middlebury College Dean of Planning John Emerson, who is a co-chair of the colleges emergency planning steering committee. "Due to its multiple campuses abroad, Middlebury needed a unique solution for emergency notification," said Bryan Rollins, vice president of product marketing at MessageOne. "By analyzing the institutions needs, we were able to provide a solution with the flexibility and reliability to make safety and security the schools highest priority." Unlike free text message systems backed by advertising dollars, AlertFind is a dedicated tool for text and voice-based emergency communication. Since the system is only used in emergencies, AlertFind prevents the "message fatigue" associated with ad-based systems where users may ignore important notifications, assuming they are spam. MessageOne, based in Austin, Texas, and founded by Michael Dells younger brother, Adam Dell, also provides managed services for e-mail management, archiving and business continuity. For more information, go here. Check out eWEEK.coms for more on IM and other collaboration technologies.
Maintaining good data is the key to making this system work, Paquet said.