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Alert system helps students weather storms

A service from Ohio State Emergency Management allows students, faculty and staff to receive National Weather Service warnings for the campus area directly to their phones.

The new service sends a text message and phone call to any student, faculty or staff member who registers when OSU campus is under an severe thunderstorm or tornado warning. Community members can register on the Buckeye Alert website.

After the National Weather Service issues a warning, Emergency Management immediately sends a text message with information about the storm to all registered cell phones.

Bob Armstrong, a director of Emergency Management and Fire Prevention, said the severe weather text alert service is designed to help everyone know if they are in danger due to severe weather.

“We just felt there is a need,” he said. “It was something that we didn’t have before and now we have an opportunity to offer this service up to everyone. We thought it was a good idea and we are trying it out.”

Armstrong said the new method of reacting to severe weather is more efficient than common methods such as listening for a siren and checking with local media.

“It will get the message out quicker,” he said. “Sometimes tornado sirens go off when tornadoes are 20 miles away on the other side of the county. Text and phone calls are only going to come if we are in the direct path of the storm or the tornado.”

Armstrong said the service costs the university $5,000 a year. The service is available for the Columbus campus and all other regional campuses. At this time, those who register are only able to receive alert messages for one campus.

Armstrong said that as technology improves, Emergency Management will attempt to provide alerts to students at more than one campus.

After July 31, all previous records of registered information will be deleted and people who want to continue receiving severe weather text messages have to re-register the service at the end of July.

Mike Joyce, a fourth-year in atmospheric science, signed up for the service and said it is a “fantastic.”

“It’s a nice, simple way for students to find out about weather alerts and it doesn’t take much effort,” he said. “A lot of students don’t know what’s going on when weather happens. They are not consistently watching the weather, in fact. They are just looking at the sky.”

Tessa Occhionero, a first-year in business, said she is not likely to use this service.

“I don’t think I really need it, because I already have apps on my iPod for the weather and the news around the area,” she said.

Armstrong said about 500 students, faculty and staff have signed up for the service since April 1.

“Because it’s a new service, many people did not sign up yet,” Armstrong said. “We expect people to learn about it over time and next year we do expect significant number of registers.”

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