If a terrorist was going to bomb Western Illinois University, do you think the campus would be ready? Well, W.I.U. is going to find out when it runs its new Emergency Alert System on Wednesday. W.I.U. is planning on reaching more than 14,000 students, faculty and staff at the Macomb and Quad cities campuses via email, voicemail and text messaging. It first tested it on December 11, 2007 when the Quad Cities campus was forced to close because of the stormy weather. It worked as planned, reaching almost 1500 students, faculty and staff at that campus. Darcie Shinberger, who works in university relations, told me this test is essential.
"After the Virginia Tech tragedy, obviously we needed to put something in place that can notify our students, faculty and staff immediately in the event of an emergency situation," said Shinberger.
It's not like Virginia Tech is the only reason the campus is implementing the new system. W.I.U. has been talking about this months before the incident at Virginia Tech occurred. The office of public safety along with the senior administrators would decide when the emergency messages would launch across campus. Those people would select the pre-recorded message to launch or they could record a message as a situation unfolds. NTI Group is the private company that provides the services for W.I.U. Shinberger told me it's very important students supplement their information on the WIU website.
"We want to know their cell phones, we want to know other email addresses, we want to know other phone numbers in which they would want to receive emergency communication," said Shinberger.
Western has also installed 51 Emergency "Call Boxes" across the Macomb campus. Police use the intercom system to provide direct assistant to students in case of an emergency. The new system would dispell any rumors you might have heard, it would keep students and faculty alert but more importantly, it would provide direction.
"It's just one more way to make this campus as safe as we possibly can," said Shinberger.
W.I.U. wants to make sure all students, faculty and staff supplement their information in case of an emergency. This is optional, but they can do so by logging on to the website at www.wiu.edu/alertsystem .