In an emergency, every minute counts. To help students, Hillsdale College has contracted with a company called Alertus Technologies.
“Compared to Blackboard Connect, Alertus works in half the time,” said Bill Whorley, director of campus security. Blackboard Connect took more than 20 minutes to notify all students, but Whorley said that Alertus, using multi-output technology, could alert all staff and students to a campus emergency in fewer than 10 minutes.
“It allows us to communicate with all of our students on one platform,” Associate Dean of Men Jeffery “Chief” Rogers said. “We hope that every student would download it and use it.”
About three quarters of Hillsdale staff and faculty currently use Alertus, according to Whorley.
Whorley says students can connect to the Alertus system by downloading the Alertus recipient app, distinguished by its yellow color. The app, available for recent iPhone and Android phones, is free to download. Upon being opened, the app asks for an organization code — “hilcol” — before letting students complete the verification process with their student emails.
Sophomore Caleb Lambrecht, a member of the security team, said the Alertus setup was straightforward.
“I found the process really simple and easy,” he said.
Alertus prompts users to allow notifications and location services. Location services help Alertus prioritize notifications so those nearest an emergency are notified first and also tells first responders where students are. Police, firefighters, and EMS can ping phones to know where people are if those people cannot answer their phones during an emergency.
The school notification system is based on redundancy: In an emergency, students could be notified through the app, text, email, and in some places, through speakers. Alertus beacons, located in several places including the Searle Center, Frank “Muddy” Waters stadium, and Hayden Park, would notify campus guests, many of whom might not have the Alertus app. An Alertus beacon also displays instructions, telling people where to go during an emergency.
The school is working with an audio consultant called AVTEK to link together the speaker systems across campus, including the “bells” in Central Hall. In case of an emergency, everyone within hearing distance of a school speaker could be immediately notified. The current email and text system may not work for students in class, away from their technology.
Alertus offers a way to automatically alert students to weather and campus emergencies.
“There’s National Weather Service integration to automate alerts regarding tornadoes,” Whorley said.
Alertus promises to bring clear communication to Hillsdale’s campus, ensuring that students and guests alike stay informed and aware during emergencies.