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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Editor's Note:UF plans to test its text-messaging emergency notification system on Tuesday, Jan. 15.

The emergency text-messaging system at Louisiana State University, similar to UF's system, was less effective than the school had hoped following a double homicide on its campus.

LSU officials sent an emergency text message to students, faculty and staff members who had registered their cell phones with the university's system after two students, Chandrasekhar Reddy Komma and Kiran Kumar Allam, were found dead in Allam's apartment on Dec. 13 with gunshot wounds to their heads.

However, many of those registered did not receive the message, although the university and its text message provider, clearTXT, have yet to determine the number of failed messages.

The new system had not been tested, LSU officials said.

UF plans to test its own emergency text-messaging system for the first time Tuesday, said Steve Orlando, UF spokesman.

As of Oct. 22, all students were required to update their emergency contact information in an effort to expand UF's emergency-notification plan.

UF added text messaging to its emergency plan in response to the April shooting at Virginia Tech.

So far, about 44,000 students have updated their contact information, but the chance of an emergency text message reaching each student is still uncertain, Orlando said.

"There's no way to know for sure until we try it," he said.

Although UF uses other forms of emergency notification, such as e-mail, text messaging would be the quickest way to inform students of an emergency, he said.

An e-mail sent to about 60,000 students, faculty and staff members could take up to three hours to get to its intended recipients.

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"If you're talking about a Virginia Tech situation, that's too long," Orlando said.

Marc Hoit, UF interim chief of information, said the biggest problem with universities' emergency text-messaging systems is getting students to sign up.

Although LSU is home to about 30,000 students, only about 8,000 signed up for the service.

Boston University was the first university in the country to make emergency text-messaging sign-up mandatory for all students in October. UF did the same the following week.

However, Hoit said even if UF's system passes the Tuesday test, text messaging remains part of a larger effort made up of e-mail, radio, television and loudspeakers to warn students in an emergency.

"Text messaging is just another piece of the big picture," Hoit said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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