Campus alert procedures get attention of Ball State trustees

Topic: Administrative

August 28, 2007

Plans for alerting the Ball State community to an on-campus emergency were shared with the university's board of trustees at its Aug. 28 regular meeting by Kay Bales, vice president for student affairs and dean of students. The multifaceted project is nearing full implementation and will speed the delivery of critical messages to students, faculty, staff and visitors during an emergency.

"Our philosophy is that no single approach can be relied upon to reach everyone," explained Bales. "So, we're utilizing an array of communications channels and messaging technology to get the message out in the case of a campus emergency."

Already in development last spring, improvements to the university's emergency notification system and procedures were accelerated in the wake of last April's tragic mass shooting at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Central to Ball State's new precautions is an opt-in text message procedure through which students register to receive important messages directly via their mobile phones. Activated and managed by the university's crisis management team (CMT), the system holds the greatest potential for rapidly disseminating word of a crisis situation to the largest number of people, said Bales, a CMT member.

Surveys show that more than 95 percent of Ball State students own mobile phones that can receive text messages. Students, faculty and staff can enroll in the new program at www.bsu.edu/emergencyalert.

To sound additional warnings, Ball State has expanded plans to use three existing weather warning sirens on campus (they are voice capable), as well as an enhanced all-BSU e-mail alert system and a new voicemail protocol able to deliver priority messages to the more than 1,700 voicemail boxes on campus within minutes.

Newly developed informational postings in the university's many classrooms and buildings will advise the campus community further on steps to take in an emergency and where to access the latest information.

The board members also learned about the extent of Ball State's ongoing fall visibility campaign from Tony Proudfoot, associate vice president for university marketing and communications. The campaign highlights a record-setting $10.5 million gift from the George and Frances Ball Foundation, as well as the opening of Park Hall, the return of Cardinals football to an updated and expanded Scheumann Stadium and the Sept. 7 dedication of the David Letterman Communication and Media Building.

The long list of accomplishments is an exciting storytelling opportunity for Ball State this fall, Proudfoot said. He added that new outdoor advertising, a new campus Web site and a series of freshly produced television spots are key components in Ball State's media relations and advertising efforts to further distinguish the university this academic year. 

"Having so much happening in such a compressed time frame demonstrates in a very tangible way that Ball State really is a dynamic, fast paced and engaged institution and one that remains very much on the move," said Proudfoot. "This is a great opportunity to set us apart, to make us more distinctive."

Contributing still more to the exciting developments on campus this semester, Ball State's transitional programs for first-year students helped earn the university a place in U.S.News & World Report's annual ranking of the nation's "Best Colleges" for the fourth year in a row, and The Princeton Review also just tapped Ball State as a repeat "Best in the Midwest" selection.

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