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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Oct. 19, 2007

New system will speed delivery of emergency messages

by Diana Pounds

Phone alert

ISU employees and students should provide ISU Alert with the phone numbers they use most, including cell phone numbers. Photo by Bob Elbert.

Iowa State officials soon will be able to quickly send emergency messages to students, faculty and staff via phone, e-mail and text messages.

The new system, named "ISU Alert," will be tested soon and should be ready for emergency use in early November.

"The initial goal is to be able to send an alert to the entire campus community within 30 minutes or less," said vice president for business and finance Warren Madden.

Except for regular testing, ISU Alert will be used for emergencies only, Madden said. The system could be used, for example, to notify students and employees of severe weather, hazardous materials incidents, bomb threats or other immediate dangers to the community.

By default, the emergency system will use phone numbers and e-mail addresses that already are in the university's student and employee databases. In an emergency, the same message would be sent to each individual's telephone voice mail and e-mail address.

Students and employees will be able to easily change their emergency phone numbers or e-mail addresses via a Web site ( On the same site, they will be able to sign up for text message alerts or opt out of the emergency notification system entirely.

"The system is intended to reach all members of the university community 24 hours a day, wherever they are," Madden said. "So we encourage each individual to keep ISU Alert updated with the number of the phone that he or she most frequently uses. For many, we expect that number will belong to a cell phone."

Madden stressed that phone numbers and e-mail addresses in the ISU Alert system will not be used for anything but emergency notifications and tests of the system. The data will not be shared with anyone beyond staff involved in emergency notifications, he added.

ISU Alert will use Connect-ED, a service of The NTI Group, a California firm that provides emergency notification services to numerous universities and schools. The firm uses sophisticated methods of call routing to send messages on behalf of universities, and promises the capability of delivering thousands of messages within minutes.

Iowa State will pay NTI approximately $40,000 annually for emergency notification services. That breaks down to $1 per year for each ISU student and $2 for each employee, plus some additional fees.

Dial-up emergency info

A dial-up recording also will be available to the campus community and the public during emergencies. Callers can get the latest information and updates. That phone number will be announced soon.

Homepage info

"The university homepage will be constantly updated during emergencies," Madden said. "We encourage those who receive an ISU Alert message to turn to the homepage ( for more information rather than calling emergency or information numbers. Too many calls can overload communications systems and tie up staff who should be dealing with the emergency."


"The system is intended to reach all members of the university community 24 hours a day, wherever they are."

Warren Madden, vice president for business and finance