Local News

Text Alerts Part of N.C. State Campus Safety System

Posted February 15, 2008 5:14 p.m. EST
Updated February 18, 2008 10:38 a.m. EST

— After the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech last spring, campuses across the country began to reconsider security, and many are making changes.

In North Carolina, the state's 110 campuses are putting new safety measures in place, based upon recommendations that a task force issued one month ago.

On the North Carolina State University campus, 11 new sirens and a text-message system called WolfAlert are nearly up and running. In fact, the school plans a test of the system next week.

They system, which is run by a company called PIER Systems, makes an alert compatible with all cell providers.

The challenge of a texting system is getting people to sign up. Of the 40,000 NCSU faculty, students and staff, only 10,000 have registered their phone numbers, despite campus-wide advertising.

"Our challenges are population and geography," David Rainer, N.C. State's associate vice chancellor for environmental health and safety, said Friday. "We're the largest in terms of students and area."

Uneasy after deaths of five students at Northern Illinois University on Thursday, student Clayton Beard said he plans to sign up. "It's on my priority list," he said. "On an open campus, there's a lot to worry about sometimes."

Even when all upgrades are complete, the university intends to use its homepage as the primary means of communicating emergency information. According to the Web site, "A text message will allow enough characters to indicate the existence of an emergency and direct recipients to the home page for more information."

In addition to text messaging and the audible alerts, N.C. State offers e-mail blasts, a campus hotline and a network of building liaisons to quickly spread with word in case of an emergency.

Other campuses in the area also have new security measures:

  • Peace College has a text message alert system and will host State Capitol Police for an upcoming drill.
  • Duke University is in the process of getting text messaging and sirens. The university has a new emergency Web site and a back-up Web server hosted by Stanford University in the event of an outage on campus.
  • At  Wake Technical Community College, two text message systems are in place – one developed by Wake Tech, the other with a company called Lynx System. There are 100 security cameras across the campus with more to come. Officials also have rewritten emergency response booklets and is establishing an emergency threat assessment team in the months since Virginia Tech. They're practicing lockdown and fire drills.
  • Three campuses in the University of North Carolina system – in Chapel Hill, Charlotte and Wilmington – have sirens or other audible alert systems. A number of other campuses are pricing siren systems. Fourteen UNC campuses have also implemented the PIER system used by N.C. State.
  • University of North Carolina at Greensboro recently held a well-publicized "on-campus shooter drill" with the full involvement and cooperation of local law enforcement agencies.
  • East Carolina University recently hosted a statewide conference on campus safety that drew participants from all UNC campuses.