More people signing up for Flash Alerts

Kevin Gareau

Enrollment in Flash Alerts, the university’s emergency text messaging system, has been slower than expected, but it’s beginning to show signs of growth.

Scott Rainone, assistant director of University Communications and Marketing, which is co-managing the service, said a total of 4,000 students, faculty and staff on all eight campuses have signed up for Flash Alerts in the four weeks since the service was launched. He said about a thousand people have signed up in the last week.

Rainone said that number is not as high as he would like it to be.

“I would love it if everyone would sign up, but I know that’s a bit unrealistic,” he said.

Rainone said there are a few reasons why the number of people who have signed up for the service is low.

“I think a lot of students are leery about giving out their cell phone numbers,” Rainone said, adding that some faculty and staff members may not use text messaging.

Judy Molnar, director of Information Services, said the university is under a one-year, $15,000 contract with Rave Alert, the company responsible for Flash Alerts. She added the university also paid a one-time implementation fee of $2,500.

Molnar said the program will be reevaluated six months into the contract, and Information Services and University Communications and Marketing will decide whether to renew the contract.

Molnar said the number of sign-ups will not be the primary concern during the reevaluation period.

“We’re looking at when we send the messages, do they reach the students in a timely manner,” Molnar said.

Sophomore history major Brad Baranowski said he has heard of Flash Alerts and thinks it’s a good idea, but he has not signed up.

“I guess I’m just lazy,” Baranowski said. “I suppose I take a live-and-let-live approach when it comes to shootings.”

Freshman exploratory major Brenton Harvey agreed the service is a good idea, but said he has also not signed up.

“I have a problem with the university texting my cell phone,” Harvey said. “I just don’t like the idea of them having my cell phone number.”

Rainone said the university is continuing to get the word out about Flash Alerts. He said they sent an e-mail through FlashLine. They have also passed out fliers, and they had a table in the Student Center last week.

Rainone said the university got the opportunity to test the service during Saturday’s emergency drill. He said he was very happy with the test.

“That was the first time we had been able to use it in a big group,” Rainone said. “It only took two to three minutes for students to receive the message once it had been sent.”

He added both the Kent State Police Department and University Communications and Marketing got a chance to test the system.

Rainone said Flash Alerts is not just used for emergencies and is also used for university delays and closings.

“In the event of a snow closing, people who have Flash Alerts would be the first to know, maybe even before the Cleveland television stations,” he said.

He said one major advantage to Flash Alerts is its speed.

“If you think about all of the alert systems in use, this is probably the closest to instant,” Rainone said.

Contact safety reporter Kevin Gareau at [email protected].