In case of emergency

St. John’s finalized its emergency voice and text messaging initiative this past month, signing a deal with MIR3, a California-based mass notification company. The deal comes just five months after the tragic shooting on the Virginia Tech campus, in which a student killed 32 people and injured 29 before taking his own life. Students and faculty are required to enter their phone numbers into St. John’s Central in order to join the system.

Over the summer, members of the Department of Public Safety, as well as Information Technology, deliberated on which mass-communications company to work with, ultimately deciding on MIR3.

“The emergency system is something we were thinking about for a long time,” said Tom Lawrence, Vice President of Public Safety. “The tragedy at Virginia Tech brought even more focus on security needs we were The University chose MIR3 after narrowing the search down to four companies. “The company was mostly selected because it’s so easy to use,” said Lawrence, who, along with Public Safety Executive Director Denise Vencak, will be responsible for sending out the emergency messages.

According to Lawrence, the company will send out both voicemails and text messages to students and faculty in life-threatening situations. The messages themselves will be very brief, informing students of the danger and what they should
watch out for.

“If, for example, a chemical dust spread throughout the Queens campus,” said Lawrence, “an emergency message would go out informing students and faculty to stay indoors and shut all windows.”

Realizing that not all students may have cell phones, the University will continue to employ its mass emailing system and is looking towards even more security measures, such as emergency PA systems for classrooms and hallways.

Joseph Tufano, Vice President of Information Technology, declined to say how much the services will cost, but said that it was purchased for a “very reasonable” price.

According to Public Safety, the notification system may eventually be used for other services as well, such as informing students of school cancellation due to inclement weather.

St. John’s division of marketing has been promoting the new contact system by running endorsements for it on television screens in the library and University Center as well as St. John’s Central. Emails have also been sent out, telling students and faculty how to put their numbers on the list.

“Joining is very easy,” said Lawrence. “You simply have to sign in to UIS and follow the prompts.”

As of September 20, more than 1500 members of the St. John’s community had added their numbers to the contact list.

Students seem in agreement that the emergency contact system is a step in the right direction for St. John’s.

“I signed up as soon as I could,” said freshman Rob Imparato. “It’s good to know that a potential tragedy could be avoided thanks to the system.”

Sophomore Maung-Tin Htoo Kyaw agreed, but seemed even more impressed by the notification’s practicality. “Waking up on a snowy day and seeing a text message saying school is cancelled will be a great feeling,” he said.

The Department of Public Safety plans on conducting a test of the notification system in November, and hopes to get as many students and faculty members as possible to sign up in the next two months.