We Need Emergency SMS Broadcasting Tools NOW!

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  • We Need Emergency SMS Broadcasting Tools NOW!

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We Need Emergency SMS Broadcasting Tools NOW!

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<p>April 16, 2007</p>
<p>It&#39;s been a dizzying day taking in the horrible news from Virginia Tech, just a few hours west of DC, with at least 30 people on campus killed by a lone gunman. I spent a good part of the morning running back and forth between NPR&#39;s digital media department, the offices of Talk of the Nation, and the central hub space shared by NPR&#39;s news team during emergencies.</p>
<p>Now that I&#39;ve had a chance to sit on the train, head back home from work, and think about what happened today, I&#39;m already angered by one bit of news I hadn&#39;t considered earlier in the day: that approximately two hours passed between the first shooting incident and the later massacre in the classrooms. During that time, it appears that almost no communications went out, apart from several mass email informing students of a shooting incident earlier in the day. The first email went out just before 9:30am, just after the final shootings began in the classrooms:</p>
<blockquote>Subject: Shooting on campus.

"A shooting incident occurred at West Amber Johnston earlier this morning. Police are on the scene and are investigating.

"The university community is urged to be cautious and are asked to contact Virginia Tech Police if you observe anything suspicious or with information on the case. Contact Virginia Tech Police at 231-6411

"Stay attuned to the http://www.vt.edu. We will post as soon as we have more information."</blockquote>
<p>This was followed by several other emails:</p>
<blockquote>Second email sent at 9:50 a.m.:

Subject: PLease stay put

"A gunman is loose on campus. Stay in buildings until further notice. Stay away from all windows"

Third email sent at 10:17 a.m.:

Subject: All Classes Canceled; Stay where you are

"Virginia Tech has canceled all classes. Those on campus are asked to remain where there are, lock their doors and stay away from windows. Persons off campus are asked not to come to campus."

Fourth email sent at 10:53 a.m.:

Subject: Second Shooting Reported; Police have one gunman in custody

"In addition to an earlier shooting today in West Ambler Johnston, there has been a multiple shooting with multiple victims in Norris Hall.

"Police and EMS are on the scene.

"Police have one shooter in custody and as part of routine police procedure, they continue to search for a second shooter.

"All people in university buildings are required to stay inside until further notice.

"All entrances to campus are closed."</blockquote>
<p>If the gunman was at large, why on earth wasn&#39;t the campus in lock-down mode sooner? Why didn&#39;t they have any other form of mass broadcast, apart from the campus-wide email?</p>
<p>At minimum, the campus should have had an emergency PA system. I don&#39;t care if you want to use shootings or tornados or any other excuse for making the investment, but every campus in America should have a basic PA system for any potential civic emergency.</p>
<p>And I know I&#39;ve said this each time a disaster has happened over the last couple of years, but why the hell don&#39;t we have an emergency SMS broadcasting tool that can be used to send warnings to every cell phone in a given area or to a given group? Please don&#39;t take this as yet another pitch for people to use Twitter or Jaiku or Mozes, because frankly I don&#39;t care what tool people use, as long as it&#39;s reliable, easy to manage and secure - and Twitter doesn&#39;t exactly meet those needs yet. It&#39;s a start, but there&#39;s a long way to go.</p>
<p>Back during the Boxing Day Tsunami, the Swedish government was able to get the local phone companies to send an SMS broadcast to every one of their subscribers whose phones had recently sent out a signal emanating from Southeast Asia. While they weren&#39;t able to do it in time to save lives, it made a major difference in tracking down who survived and who didn&#39;t. If they&#39;re able to figure out a way to do that, why can&#39;t we figure out a way to allow schools and municipalities here in the US to send out emergency SMS broadcasts? There&#39;s no way I can know for sure, of course, but I would surmise that almost every student and faculty member injured or killed today had a cell phone on them when they were attacked. Imagine the difference a single text message could have made.</p>
<p>We can wait and see if some dot-com company can come up with a tool that could be jury-rigged for such purposes. Or we could get off our asses and make the necessary investments to develop an serious SMS broadcasting tool specifically designed for emergencies, both for warning the public and coordinating first responders. How many more disasters will it take before we do take the necessary action? -andy</p>
<p>Posted by acarvin at April 16, 2007 6:33 PM</p>
<p>--</p>
<p>Original source: <a href="http://www.andycarvin.com/archives/2007/04/we_need_emergency_sms_broadcasting_tools.html">http://www.andycarvin.com/archives/2007/04/we_need_emergency_sms_broadcasting_tools.html</a></p>
<p>Licensed under <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0</a></p>

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Andy Carvin

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2007-05-23

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Brent Jesiek

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Andy Carvin, "We Need Emergency SMS Broadcasting Tools NOW!," in The April 16 Archive, Item #200, http://www.april16archive.org/items/show/200 (accessed September 19, 2014).