Bemidji State conducts test of Connect-ED alert system

BEMIDJI, Minn. – On Tuesday, Feb. 5, Bemidji State University conducted a test of the Connect-ED emergency notification system. Connect-ED allows administration at Bemidji State to deliver messages to students, faculty and staff via telephone and e-mail in a matter of minutes.

Bemidji State’s adoption of a campus-wide notification system was part of an initiative by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system which began over a year ago.

“We had the same rationale as many campuses that have been seeking solutions like this in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings – making sure the campus was prepared for emergencies,” Bob Griggs, interim associate vice president of information technology services, said. “MnSCU found that individual campuses were negotiating with vendors for these types of services, and found that as a system we could work more collaboratively to serve students.”

As a result, Bemidji State became one of approximately 12 MnSCU schools to participate in a pilot program with Connect-ED.

“We signed up last spring, did some training over the summer and began testing internally in late fall,” Griggs said. “That all helped lead up to the first campus-wide test on Feb. 5.”

Bemidji State’s test of the Connect-ED system attempted 6,138 unique telephone message deliveries and 8,871 e-mail messages to students, faculty and staff at the University. More than 75 percent of the telephone messages were delivered successfully, with the majority of the unsuccessful deliveries occurring due to a bad telephone number or no answer on a line.

“This was a good first campus-wide test for the system,” Griggs said. “The positive thing is that now we have this system, and an emergency management team that has been identified to use it to distribute messages to our faculty, staff and students.

“Based on the test, we now know a few problem areas based on bad telephone numbers and other incorrect contact information,” he added. “That will help us better prepare the system for use in an actual emergency situation.”

Built exclusively for post-secondary institutions, the Connect-ED service allows communication through: voice messages to home, work and cell phones; text messages to cell phones, PDAs and other devices; written messages to email accounts; and messages to teletypewriters and telecommunication devices (TTY/TDD) for the hearing impaired. During a time-sensitive situation, multi-mode communication is a more comprehensive way to reach people in the environment they are in when the issue arises. Messages can be sent simultaneously to all available contact points for each person.

The system has been used by schools across the country during events such as Hurricane Katrina and to help locate missing individuals. In addition to emergency communication, some campuses use the service for more routine communications such as during the admissions process or to alert students to important financial aid or other administrative deadlines. However, Bemidji State University currently plans to use Connect-ED only for emergency alert messages.