Virginia Tech recently improved its emergency notification system to further ensure rapid dissemination of important information to the university community.

Over the summer, the university installed electronic message boards in all 165 general assignment classrooms on the Blacksburg campus which will be used for emergency notifications. When an important message is posted to the electric message boards, a brief audible tone will be heard to alert those in the classroom that a message will appear. When not in use, the message boards will display the current date and time.

“We continuously review our emergency notification procedures and processes, and we’re always looking for ways to make them better,” said Larry Hincker, associate vice president for university relations. “We think this change will help us reach students, faculty, and staff more effectively should situations arise when we need to reach everyone with important information.”

Given the growing number of channels used to notify the university community, Virginia Tech Police, University Relations, and Communications Network Services are working to develop a new message distribution interface that that will send messages to several of the notification channels simultaneously. This effort will enable the university to reduce the amount of time taken to send important information to its many contact methods.

In addition to the four methods of contact provided by VT Alerts (text messages to cell phones, voice messages to any telephone number, instant messages, and e-mail messages to non-university e-mail accounts) and the new electronic message boards in general purpose classrooms, Virginia Tech will continue to send e-mail to all university e-mail accounts, use the university homepage, and in certain instances, deploy outdoor sirens, send voice mail messages to all campus phones, update the (540) 231-6668 hotline, or use public media to inform the community of important information when appropriate.

Hincker noted that winter weather advisories in which classes are delayed or canceled would be the most common usage of the notification system.

Approximately 200 electronic messages boards have been installed in general assignment classrooms and other high traffic locations. The university is reviewing possible installation of additional messages boards in other campus locations. Virginia Tech included the addition of electronic message boards in general purpose classrooms following its comprehensive internal review of the events related to the April 16, 2007, tragedy.

The university will test its emergency notification system at least once every fall and spring semester. The fall semester test is currently planned for Wednesday, Oct. 8; details on the test are forthcoming and will be posted to Virginia Tech News.

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