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Prompted by Virginia Tech shooting, Harvard buys new alert system

(U-WIRE) CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Harvard launched a campus-wide text message alert system last month for students, faculty and staff that enables administrators to send messages to participants’ cell phones in case of emergency.

The use of alert systems on campuses has increased since the Virginia Tech shooting last spring, when students and faculty were not immediately notified of the emergency.

“It’s redundant,” said university spokesman Joseph Wrinn of the alert system, “but we’re trying to keep up with what you guys are paying attention to.”

Students expressed concerns about divulging their cell phone number and receiving excessive text messages from the school, but officials said the system would only be used in emergencies.

Bryan Crum, a spokesman for Omnilert-the company providing Harvard’s alert system-said that universities activated the system for a wide variety of emergencies, running the gamut from chemical spills and severe weather to a loose pit bull, which stalked the campus of Florida A&M.

“Sign ups [at Florida A&M] increased after that,” Crum noted.

September 13, 2007

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