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OU seeks new notification system

Ohio University is searching for a company to run its emergency notification system because the current in-house system was late to notify most students of a September tornado warning.

The university is now accepting proposals and hopes to award a contract by March 25, with the contract starting April 1. OU's Environmental Health and Safety department manages the emergency notification text message system, which OU has used since 2007.

This move is not about saving money but rather providing the most efficient service for students, said Stephen Golding, vice president for Finance and Administration. The current system costs OU $7,420 annually to maintain.

"We found that the emergency notification system did not meet our needs of notifying students," he said. "It did not get information out in an acceptable time frame. So we need to look and see if there is a better system than the university currently has."

Students reported receiving emergency text messages about the September storm anywhere from an hour to three hours after the storm had ravaged homes and businesses in The Plains, which is about 5 miles northwest of Athens.

OU is now looking for a company that could provide a more comprehensive system, said Katie Quaranta, an OU spokeswoman.

Companies that submit proposals should be able to implement a tiered text messaging system - with different categories for students, faculty, staff, parents and media - and send voice mails to landlines. The tiered system should also be able to classify students by where they live and attend classes, as well as other factors, according to OU's request for the proposal document.

"This is simply an effort to ensure that we have the system that best fits our needs," Quaranta said in an e-mail. "However, we are still very early in this process. Once we get responses to (our request for proposal), we will have a better idea of what options are available and what our next steps will be."

In addition to its text messaging system, which students can sign up for through OU's website, the university uses its website, e-mail and outdoor notification system to warn students about emergencies.


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