Ice and Snow Put New Texting System to the Test
Feb. 18, 2011
The Feb. 1-5 campus closures provided an extended test-run for UTDAlert, the new UT Dallas notification system. Seven messages were sent to members of the University community over four days informing them of closures and delays during the winter storm.
“This weather event was highly unusual for North Texas,” said Susan Rogers, vice president for communications. “It prompted us to use the new system much more frequently than we had expected we normally would.”
Many Metroplex residents found themselves without e-mail, Internet access, television and radio during the power outages and rolling blackouts that accompanied the recent severe winter weather. The UTDAlert messages helped UT Dallas students, faculty and staff members stay up-to-date about campus operations.
The University uses several communication channels during inclement weather and encourages familiarity with all of them, rather than reliance on one:
- The University website.
- E-mail announcements to faculty, staff and students.
- The University’s recorded hotline, 972-883-7669, which can provide up to 40 callers per minute with UT Dallas’ open, delayed or closed status.
- Alerts via the University’s text messaging system.
- The UT Dallas Facebook page and Twitter Feed.
- Local media outlets.
“Our emergency communication is redundant intentionally, and needs to be,” Rogers said.
More than 12,000 students, faculty and staff have provided a cell phone number to the University and can receive text alerts in case normal campus operations are disrupted. Current students, faculty and staff can still provide their cell numbers to receive future alerts. Visit utdallas.edu/textme and follow the appropriate prompts.
Some other usability points:
- Mobile Campus, the current text messaging system, remains online for the time being and was used in tandem with UTDAlert to send notices. Mobile Campus subscribers will receive a final text when the transition to UTDAlert is complete. These users should provide a cell phone number to the University if they have not already to ensure continuity of service.
- Anyone who has given UT Dallas a cell phone number but did not receive texts last week should verify the number online – on the Orion page for students, and Galaxy for faculty and staff. If the phone number listed is correct, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with a brief description of the problem, name as listed in the University directory and cell phone number. Students also should provide their NetIDs with correspondence.
- Users are discouraged from responding to the UTDAlert messages unless they require emergency assistance or have information to share with University administrators. All text messages are read as time allows and do appear in the mailbox of the sender.
The UTDAlert messages helped UT Dallas students, faculty and staff members stay up-to-date about campus operations. (Photo Courtesy of Todd Elia)
Update Communication Info
UT Dallas urges faculty, staff and students to add their cell phone numbers to their University records via the utdallas.edu/textme page, in order to be prepared for a transition to a new text messaging system expected to be operational later in the semester.