Emergency texting alert system

I am an adjunct instructor at New York University in the Stern School of Management and the School of Continuing and Professional Studies. In this capacity, I receive a lot of official email communications from the university, and one of them that I recently received struck me as being one of the better emergency notification ideas I have come across in some time. From the email I received:

One of the fastest ways to reach you in an emergency is probably sitting in your pocket right now: your cell phone. The University has developed the capacity to send blast text messages to your cell phone to ensure you get direct and timely information in case of an emergency. To help us enhance your personal safety, we are asking employees to store their cell phone numbers in the Human Resources Information System (HRIS) through ePass. This number will be stored in the HRIS database and kept confidential. We expect to conduct one test per semester (the first test will take place on Thursday, September 27); other than that, it will only be used in emergency situations.

The email then gives simple instructions to set this up. While this is undoubtedly another step within their HRIS system, with the ubiquity of cell phones, this is a no-brainer for emergency alerts. I suggested this to my full-time job, and they seemed interested in this but not quite ready for an automated system yet. Where else may this be useful? How about:

  • local public transit alerts?
  • weather emergencies
  • work closings due to power outages, weather issues, or disasters
  • schools to alert students about snow delays or other emergency needs
  • shopping alerts when stores get new merchandise in stock
  • surprise sales or sudden markdowns
  • the list seems almost endless.

I wonder, with smart phones, Blackberry’s (I finally have a great Blackberry World Phone), Twitter, and wifi, if text alerts may be the next formalized and immediate communication methodology to be used by folks over age 25? There certainly appear to be enough organizational needs for them.

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