Text alerts keeping East Texas students safe

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Many colleges and universities are actually safer now as a result of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting. After the tragedy many schools, including campuses in East Texas re-evaluated their emergency plans and many of those plans are in effect every day.

Peyton Low is the emergency management coordinator at UT Tyler.
He helped implement the campus text message and mass alert system four years ago after the Virginia Tech shooting.

"UT Tyler along with a number of other colleges and universities across the county realized how important being able to alert students in a timely manner was," said Low.

Now the 6,500 students, faculty and staff are automatically enrolled in the service.
It alerts them when there's an emergency, through outdoor sirens, e-mails and text messages.

"I think that on a college campus students are so spread out, that the ability to notify them immediately is crucial," said Low.

Low said most alerts are pre-scripted so no time is wasted figuring out what to say.

"It could be used besides for severe weather or an active shooter. It could be used for any situation you needed to alert the campus of quickly. For example if you had a hazardous material leak in one of the labs it could be used for something like that," he said.

Tyler Junior College has a similar program in place, though students must chose to sign up for it themselves.

"We tell them our telephone number. This is how you contact us, but also at the same time we tell them options and ways that we as a college can contact you," said Tyler Junior College Police Chief Randy Melton.

Chief Melton said TJC has been lucky and not had to use it much, but students still like knowing it's there.

"It's a quick way for my to find out if anything happens on campus. I always have my cell phone on me so if I receive a text them I already know and I just feel safer with that," said Brianna Pitts, a TJC student.

It's simple, keeping East Texas students informed, and most importantly safe.

Both UT Tyler and TJC's emergency text message systems are provided for free, but some cell phone provider's standard text messaging rates may apply depending on the provider.

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