Safety system available on phones

The Florida A&M University Department of Safety launched a new program called e2Campus this fall. The system alerts students about dangers or events occurring on campus through text messages.

“We needed a way to alert the students quickly,” said Sherri Luke, crime prevention officer for the FAMU Police Department. It will be especially useful “in matters of great emergencies, like a theft or a gas leak, ” she said.

The e2Campus software is a crowd notification system that sanctions schools to send time-sensitive messages to students, parents, faculty and staff, regardless of location. Unlike a siren or bell, the system is more informative, sending information via text message, e-mail, web pages, and PDAs.

“We know how students love their cell phones, so now we can reach them with important information that may end up saving their lives, whether on or off campus,” Luke said.

All at once, the system delivers notifications to all registered members, reporting any signs of warnings or vital news.Campus police are urging the entire campus community to register.

“I would like to see an increase interest in crime prevention,” Luke said. “Ninety percent of crime prevention is being aware of your surroundings. If you know what’s going on, you know how to react.”

Created by the company Omnilert LLC, e2Campus is the second of its kind. The first was Omnilert. The program has swept schools all across the nation under its umbrella since its release in 2004.

“We’re always concerned with the safety of the university and student body,” said James Lockley, assistant police chief of public safety. “Anything that will embrace safety, we will implement here on campus.”

A grant from the Department of Homeland Security was given to the Department of Education to maximize security in schools across the nation. FAMU received $19,000 to execute this new technology for the course of two years.

FAMU, along with a host of other universities, high schools, and police officers in Tallahassee, decided to go with e2Campus based on presentation and the large range of communication.

“I haven’t heard of anything like this before,” said Chris Thomas, 18, a freshman theater student. “It’s important because if you’re in the area, you would want to get out.”

The e2Campus program made its debut on campus Aug. 29 with its first alert being sent to notify the College of Law about an approaching hurricane. It also informed the students, faculty and staff about the closing of the school. It issued a hotline number from which updates could be retrieved.

The second notification was dispatched Sept. 5. It involved an armed robbery that took place in the Palmetto apartments. It stated, “Armed Robbery occurred in the Palmetto Area. Sept. 5 2006, 12:30 am. Check e-mail for details.”

“It looks like it makes FAMU care about us,” said Thomas. “I know they do, so I think it’s a good idea.”

Aside from matters of emergency, e2Campus will also be used in the coming months to provide information on events such as football game results, concerts and organizational meetings.To register, a person must visit and submit their name, user name, phone number, and e-mail address.

To date, only 600 are registered for the reports, but FAMU PD is expecting a large increase within the coming months.

“I think a lot of students are going to want to do it after they find out how simple it is to register,” Luke said.