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

Feb. 20, 2008

Nearly 30,000 receive messages in ISU Alert test run

by Diana Pounds

The first big exam for ISU Alert began at 9 a.m. Feb. 8 when ISU police commander Gene Deisinger hit the "send" button, pushing a test message out to nearly 30,000 students, faculty and staff.

Deisinger and dean of students Dione Somerville said they were pleased with the results of the test of the emergency notification system. Forty-six percent of those completing a follow-up survey said they'd received or heard about the ISU Alert message within 15 minutes of the test's beginning. Those who knew about the alert had climbed to 67 percent at the 30-minute mark and 79 percent within an hour.

Deisinger said that while the test went well, staff will work to improve message delivery. For example, some phone calls did not go through due to incorrect numbers and congestion on the voicemail system. To help alleviate this issue, members of the campus community are encouraged to update their ISU Alert information in AccessPlus.

Deisinger and Somerville emphasized that ISU Alert cannot deliver instant messages to tens of thousands of participants at once. The goal is to reach as many people as possible, with information that is timely, accurate, and useful.

"We'll be using many forms of communication in a real emergency," Deisinger said. "These include the university Web site, sirens, public address systems that exist in some buildings, the media and word of mouth. ISU Alert will complement those efforts."

"One of the things we noticed during the ISU Alert test was that many of those who didn't get their message right away still heard about it quickly from others," Somerville said. "That's great. We count on the campus community to help spread the word in an emergency."

ISU Alert messages are distributed by three methods -- voice message to a phone, text message to a phone, and text message to an e-mail address. Deisinger encourages members of the ISU community to sign up for all three options through AccessPlus.

If there's a real emergency

If you receive an ISU Alert message for a real emergency (rather than a test), Deisinger offers this advice:

  • Follow the directions in the alert to get to a safe location
  • Check the ISU homepage ( for updates
  • Check Iowa State's emergency recording at 294-5000 for updates. (This number also is available to the public.)

Thanks to survey participants

Somerville thanked the more than 2,200 people who responded to the follow-up survey on the ISU Alert test.

"That feedback will be very useful as we work to improve ISU Alert," she said.

Detailed information and an FAQ are available on the ISU Alert Web site at

ISU Alert tips

  • Check your ISU Alert options through AccessPlus to ensure phone numbers and e-mail addresses are correct.
  • Use the phone numbers most likely to find you. Avoid using your office's general phone number, unless that's the number that rings at your desk.
  • Sign up for all three ISU Alert options. That gives you the best coverage in an emergency.
  • If you receive an ISU Alert, tell others who may not yet have received a direct message.