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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    SB’s Text Message System Fully Operational

    SB Alert, Stony Brook’s text messaging system, MIR3, is officially available for use, said Gary Kaczmarczyk, the Interim Director of Emergency Management. SB Alert is part of a greater initiative by SB’s Emergency Management Team to alert the Stony Brook community through a variety of mediums in the case of possible emergencies. Campuses across the nation have been steadily updating their communication systems after the massacre at Virginia Tech.
    There are currently 10,165 people signed up, including 8,310 students, about 23 percent of the whole campus population, including faculty, staff and private contractors. Unlike other universities, students do not have to sign up separately for the text messaging system. Their information is automatically inputted into the alert system via Solar, a process that takes only a minute or two.
    The text messaging system available on campus is a combination of two services. NY Alert, a mass notification system developed by the State Emergency Management Office, was ‘production ready’ by September 4, said Richard Reeder, the Chief Information Officer for the Division of Info Technology. However, Reeder felt that NY Alert, because of its size, would be challenging to oversee and lacked the flexibility in operations. ‘SEMO [the NY State Emergency Management Office] wrote this for itself, not all of SUNY’hellip;flexibility that is not needed for their application, is needed for our private side,’ Reeder said.
    The flexibility that Reeder emphasized included NY Alert’s inability to create groups within the system. For instance, when an emergency strikes, NY Alert would send text messages to every member in its system. Students must also provide their cell phone carrier, such as Verizon, along with their number while signing up.
    In response to this, Stony Brook purchased a one-year contract with MIR3, the Intelligent Notification system. According to Reeder, MIR3 Campus Alert provides greater flexibility because it allows Stony Brook to send individual text messages to a group of the campus community instead of sending mass messages to the whole community. For instance, MIR3 can differentiate between faculty, staff, students, volunteers as well as any other group that Stony Brook makes within the system. Information such as the student’s cell phone carrier is not needed for the operation of MIR3. MIR3 can also send warnings as well as ask for a response.
    Reeder continued, ‘We fully intend to settle on NY Alert when it comes to speed on all the features we need that are important.’
    The one-year contract with MIR3 was purchased for $25,000 as opposed to NY Alert, which is free for all schools within the SUNY system. This amount was not deducted from the student technology fee stressed Reeder when he said, ‘this should not be your [the student’s] responsibility.’ However, it is deducted from Stony Brook’s operating budget.
    Stony Brook’s increased emphasis on emergency communications is partly due to the effect of Virginia Tech as text messaging alert systems have become a necessity as hundreds of campuses across the nation have upgraded their emergency management plans. When asked if Stony Brook’s text messaging system was influenced by this reason, Kaczmarczyk said ‘Absolutely.’
    Brown University as well as St. John’s University has signed with MIR3 for their campus alert system. It has gained national recognition since New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly praised MIR3 when he said during a news conference, ‘St. John’s newly instituted emergency text messaging system worked like a charm.’ Other universities such as Buffalo University have signed with private companies such as Rave Wireless.
    Along with MIR3, Stony Brook is also implementing other communication systems as recommended by the Chancellor’s Task Force on Critical Incident Management. Two new systems that will be implemented within this semester are a set of campus sirens and a digital signage system.
    Stony Brook is currently in the process of purchasing a siren, first in a set of possible three, which will be located on top of the library building, Reeder said.
    According to Kaczmarczyk, the digital displays, which are large LCD screens similar to television sets, will be available in all high traffic areas such as in the Administration Building, the Student Activities Center and the Student Union. In the Melville Library, the digital display will replace the TVs currently available in the lobby.
    The lesson learned, Reeder said, is ‘no one technology will save our lives.’ Kaczmarczyk echoed this belief when he said, ‘[we should] realize that there is no one system that guarantees a hundred percent of everything that happens. We need a variety of systems we can rely on so that everyone gets the message.’

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