With just a few clicks of a mouse, Jim Wilson can send out thousands of emails, phone calls and text messages in case of an emergency or other alerts.
The chief information officer for the Iowa Valley Community College District handles the alert system for the district's three college sites - Marshalltown Community College, Ellsworth Community College and Iowa Valley Grinnell.
The college started using the system three years ago, which lets students and staff know about emergency situations, school closings and delays, and other urgent matters. It began after a recommendation from the district's safety committee.
T-R PHOTO BY ANDREW POTTER
This is an example of a text message sent out through the alert system at Marshalltown Community College. Students and staff can be informed about campus emergencies, school closings and other alerts through the system.
"A lot of it came from the aftermath of the shootings at Virginia Tech," Wilson said.
Wilson said Iowa Valley's campuses are among hundreds of colleges that use a similar system.
"Virtually all (college campuses) do this any more," he said.
Wilson said the messages are not meant to replace fire or tornado alarms.
"We are trying to get information to the people as quickly as we can," he said.
So far, the system has only been used for weather-related closings and delays and one time when a power outage delayed classes at MCC, which was this past summer.
Wilson said it can also be used to keep people off campus if there is a situation such as a chemical spill or other dangerous occurrence on campus.
Students and staff must sign up for the service, which is free to them, to receive the messages. There is an option to put up to six phone numbers on the list and two email addresses per person. A total of 1,256 people at IVCCD are signed up currently and Wilson said many students prefer the text message method mode.
The system costs the college district approximately $6,800 a year through the provider known as Blackboard Connect and Iowa Valley just renewed another three-year deal with the company. Wilson feels it is worth the cost as they can't put a price on campus safety.
"I think we have an obligation to be able to quickly communicate with people in case of a situation," he said.