February 29, 2008

Vanderbilt implementing new emergency notification system

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Vanderbilt implementing new emergency notification system

Vanderbilt University is rolling out a new and more robust emergency notification system beginning March 3 called AlertVU. It will replace the current emergency notification system, MobileVU.

AlertVU will be used in the event of an emergency posing an imminent threat or danger to the Vanderbilt campus, such as an active shooter on campus or a tornado.

“In the event of an emergency, it is vital that we get information out that is timely, accurate and useful,” said Marlon Lynch, Vanderbilt's chief of police. “AlertVU is one of the tools we will use to deliver that information during an event that poses an imminent, ongoing danger to the campus community.”

All individuals with a VU e-mail address can register for the free system at www.vanderbilt.edu/alertvu. AlertVU will send alerts to all the delivery methods a subscriber chooses: cell phone (voice or text), landline, e-mail, fax or pager.

To encourage the initial sign up, all students and employees who register on the AlertVU site between March 3-21 will be eligible to win an iPhone.

AlertVU is limited to members of the Vanderbilt community and requires a valid Vanderbilt e-mail address and a password of the subscriber's choosing. However, subscribers may list their loved ones' phone number as one of their alternative phone numbers so that they too will receive emergency alerts.

The MobileVU service will end on March 21. The move away from MobileVU to AlertVU was necessary for technical reasons, Lynch said.

“MobileVU sends text messages only. Text messaging was developed for person-to-person messaging, not mass communication,” Lynch explained. “Redundant, overlapping and consistent communication is an important component of any emergency plan. AlertVU will allow us to send the same messages using multiple modes and methods to help assure that those affected have access to warning messages and alerts to help keep them safe.”

AlertVU is a free, voluntary, opt-in service. All members of the Vanderbilt community are encouraged, but not required, to participate.

AlertVU is one part of a larger system in place at Vanderbilt to notify the campus of emergencies. In addition to AlertVU, the system includes mass e-mails, sirens, use of the university Web site, verbal information from appropriate people and more. Those tools will continue to be used for the situations that warrant their use.

AlertVU will only be used for emergencies posing an imminent threat or danger to the Vanderbilt community.

The university has contracted with W.A.R.N. (Wide Area Rapid Notification), a national company based in Gallatin, Tenn., to provide AlertVU. W.A.R.N. has clients including public safety agencies, emergency management agencies, federal, state, county, and city governments, the U.S. military, the Department of Homeland Security, and several other colleges and universities.