Cell phones can now be registered with UST’s Emergency Notification System

University of St. Thomas students, staff and faculty are invited to register their cell-phone numbers with the university’s new Emergency Notification System.

This system, first announced several weeks ago, only will be used by the university’s Department of Public Safety and only in the most extreme cases involving the safety of the university community. It will not be used, for example, for school-closing announcements because of winter weather.

Since it was launched in October, the St. Thomas Emergency Notification System has been capable of sending:

  • Text messages to all St. Thomas e-mail accounts.
  • Voice messages to student residence hall or home numbers.
  • Voice messages to faculty and staff office and home numbers.

In addition, the system now can send both voice and text messages to the cell phones of all students, staff and faculty who choose to register their cell-phone information. This is voluntary and there is no cost to sign up for the new system. Those who do not register a cell phone number will receive emergency alerts via e-mail and their office, home and/or residence hall phones.

Depending on your cell-phone plan, you may be charged for the text message if a message is sent to your cell phone.

University officials are planning a cell-phone text-message test on Tuesday Jan. 8, 2008. Only those who have registered a cell phone number by Saturday, Jan. 5, will receive a text message on their cell phone as part of this test. A voice message to cell phones will not be sent as part of this test. Also as part of the test, e-mail messages will be sent to all St. Thomas e-mail accounts on Jan. 8.

The Jan. 8 test will coincide with other safety tests and drills on campus Tuesday and Wednesday, Jan. 8 and 9, including SWAT training for St. Paul Police and St. Thomas Public Safety officers from 6 to 10 p.m. both days in and around the John R. Roach Center for the Liberal Arts on the St. Paul campus.

Those signing up their cell phone number for the Emergency Notification System will need to provide both their cell phone number and the provider of their cell phone service, such as Verizon or Sprint.

To register, first go to the university’s Murphy Online Information System homepage at http://banner.stthomas.edu . Click on the link “Login to the Murphy Online secured area” and enter the required identification and PIN numbers. When you are in the Murphy system, click on the “Personal Information” link. There you will see a list of links; go to the one at the bottom, “University of St. Thomas Emergency Alert Notification System,” and follow the directions.

When completed, the form will indicate the order in which the emergency message will be sent to your various phone numbers. If you have more than one cell phone, you must pick the one that will receive the emergency message.

When cell phones are registered with the Emergency Notification System, they will be called first, followed by a residence hall or office phone, followed by a home phone.

Cell phone numbers collected for the Emergency Notification System are treated as confidential information and will not be released to others outside of St. Thomas under any circumstances.

If a student or employee receives an emergency message, it will show up on her or his cell phone as coming from “CITYWATCH,” which is the name of the system that is sold and supported by AVTEX, a Twin Cities company that provides a range of call centers, emergency-notification systems and voice-mail systems.

When St. Thomas decides to send an emergency message via cell phones, the message first is sent to the various cell-phone providers. The providers, in turn, send the messages to the students and employees. Just how fast the messages are delivered could depend on factors that are beyond the university’s control. Some text messages could be dropped due to high traffic load, or if the message is perceived as being spam.

It is expected that the messages will be delivered quickly. But because of the variables involved with dealing with various providers and calling plans, St. Thomas is using a variety of methods … including e-mail messages … to issue an emergency alert.

Parents, alumni and friends cannot sign up to receive the emergency messages.

Here are some frequently asked questions regarding cell-phone registration:

Who can sign up for the St. Thomas Emergency Notification System, provided by a program called City Watch?

The service is available to for use by all faculty, staff and students of the St. Thomas community.

Is participation in the Emergency Notification System mandatory?

Participation in the cell-phone portion of the Emergency Notification System is not mandatory; however, all faculty, staff and students who have cell phones are encouraged to register. The cell-phone notification is one of several ways in which St. Thomas may contact the community in the event of an emergency. Other methods of communications include Web site alerts, e-mail, voice mail and megaphone-style, public-address speakers mounted on Public Safety vehicles.

Will I be charged on my phone bill for text message alerts?

There is no charge for including your cell-phone number in the Emergency Notification System. Your cell-phone provider may, however, charge a fee for delivery of messages based on your current calling plan.

What if my cell phone is not set up to receive text messages?

If your cell phone is not set up to receive text messages, then you cannot participate in the text-message notification. If your cell phone is set up to receive voice messages but not text messages, your cell phone will receive a voice message.

Can I register more than one cell phone?

Currently, the system is set up to register one cell-phone number, one office number and one home or residence hall number per individual.

What if I don’t have a cell phone?

The cell-phone notification system is one of several ways in which St. Thomas may contact the community in the event of an emergency. Other methods of communication include Web site alerts, e-mail, voice mail and megaphone-style, public-address speakers mounted on Public Safety vehicles.

What if my cell-phone number changes?

If you change your cell phone number after you have registered, return to the Emergency Notification System Web site and update your cell-phone information.

What if my cell-phone provider changes?

If you change your cell-phone provider after you have registered, return to the Emergency Notification Sy
stem Web site and update your cell-phone information.

What if my cell-phone provider is not listed as an option on the registration page?

Certain providers are not compliant to receive text messages from an e-mail account. As such, at this time you will not be able to register with St. Thomas’ text-message alert service.

What will the Emergency Notification System alerts tell me?

The alerts will be very brief. They will notify you of an emergency situation affecting the St. Thomas community and direct you where to get further information. If your cell phone has the “Caller ID” function, note that you will see the word “CITYWATCH” in your Caller ID.

Who is in charge of sending the alerts from St. Thomas?

Only the university’s Department of Public Safety has the capability of sending emergency notification messages to the St. Thomas community.