Local News

N.C. State's 'WolfAlert' System to Take Its First Test

Posted February 18, 2008 7:10 a.m. EST
Updated February 18, 2008 9:41 a.m. EST

— In the event of an emergency on North Carolina State University’s campus, officials would send out text messages to faculty, students and staff.

Getting people to sign up to receive the “WolfAlert” messages is another issue.

Of the 40,000 faculty, students and staff at N.C. State, only 10,000 have registered their phone numbers, despite campus-wide advertising. For those who have signed-up, school officials plan to test the system this week.

N.C. State isn't the only campus trying to get this type of system off the ground. On North Carolina's 110 public and private college campuses, new safety measures have quickly become the priority.

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

Last year, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper formed a task force to look at crisis communication plans at colleges and universities. The task now is to make sure those plans work.

“It’s important for us to be ready. We owe it to our parents, the faculty, and we owe it to the students to be ready,” he said.

Uneasy after the deaths of students at Northern Illinois University last week, 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, N.C. State intends to use its homepage as the primary means of communicating emergency information. According to its 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 established 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.