Cumberland University is located in Lebanon, Tennessee, 30 miles east of Nashville. Founded in 1842, the University is a private, independent, coeducational, liberal arts institution providing an education to over 1000 students in five academic schools, three graduate degree programs and a non-credit Continuing Education Program. They have been using TextMarks for SMS Emergency Alerts for the past seven years.
For emergency communications, we don’t need all the bells and whistles. I think it’s overkill. TextMarks is fast and effective. People can’t ignore the ding.
Need for Fast Mass Notification
Shortly after the Virginia Tech school shooting in 2007, Cumberland University began researching ways to make their campus safer in the event of an active shooter or weather emergency situation at Cumberland University. They added security cameras and emergency phones, but needed a quick way to notify everyone if the situation was critical. “We are right in the Tornado Zone, so emergencies related to severe weather are more likely” said Joseph Gray, Executive Director of Campus Services.
The University was using email , social media and word of mouth as the primary means communication. “We are small enough that if there was a situation, we would also have someone run to each residence hall to get the students out. Sometimes we even had to pull the fire alarm to get them out safely.” They wanted something more effective than email and word of mouth, yet affordable considering their school size.
Simple, Easy SMS Alert System
Cumberland University chose TextMarks for providing, quick, easy text message alerts to their entire campus. “Text messages are the way to go. Everyone looks at it. With SMS, everyone gets the message. Students are not looking at their emails,” said Gray.
The University gets students to opt-in to their CU Alert System primarily at Orientation. By keeping the keyword just for emergencies, they have also built up trust in the system, so upperclassmen are helping freshman sign up as well.
Joseph also likes being able to send alerts from his phone . “I can do it from anywhere. Once, I was driving to work and ran into a major storm and immediately pulled off to the side of the road. I took out my phone and texted everyone that we were closing the school. Because things here can change that quickly.”
High Opt-In Rates and a Safer Campus
“We have had no injuries or loss of life. Our risk levels are as low as we can get it.” During tornadoes, the entire campus knows to take cover in designated “safe zones” or bunkers and to wait for the All Clear text. Campus Security does a check on all safe zones to make sure students are getting there, and so far they have been, according to Gray.
Cumberland University’s opt-in rate to their CU Alert System is high – almost 90% of students. They purge the list every year to clear out old phone numbers and former students, and then ask current students to re-subscribe. Even after purging their list, re-opt-in rates remain high at 85-90%.
“For emergency communications, we don’t need all the bells and whistles. I think it’s overkill. TextMarks is fast and effective. People can’t ignore the ding.”