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Ohio State opts for new, ‘faster’ public safety alerts system

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Students, faculty and staff should expect Buckeye Alert text messages to be delivered in a more timely manner after a switch to a new vendor with more features.

Ohio State switched to the company Rave Mobile Safety July 1 from the company Twenty First Century Communications, which they had used since 2004, said Bob Armstrong, director of Emergency Management and Fire Prevention in the OSU Department of Public Safety.

Part of the decision to change companies was based on cost. While OSU was spending $120,000 to $130,000 per year with Twenty First Century, Armstrong estimated the annual cost with Rave will be $100,000.

An additional deciding factor in the switch was what Rave’s services had to offer.

“It’s not that the old company did anything wrong, it’s just that the new company had some more features that we may want to look at in the future,” Armstrong said. “So we decided to go ahead and make the switch.”

Todd Miller, vice president of Public Safety Services at Rave, said he hopes the partnership works well and lasts.

“We’d like to have a long-term relationship. The safety and security of our school communities is extremely important,” Miller said.

He said serving OSU presents a new type of challenge for the company, but Rave’s focuses were in line with what OSU wanted.

“It is unique to have a campus that is so large,” Miller said. “I think speed, performance, and reliability were really important to everyone there at OSU.”

One change that will likely be apparent to students, faculty and staff is they will receive alert text messages significantly faster, Armstrong said. In the past it has generally taken 15 to 20 minutes to receive messages but through the new company it is estimated to take seven to eight minutes.

Phil Tat, a second-year in biology, said he generally found the messages to be untimely.

“These messages were a bit delayed,” Tat said. “I could find it faster on Facebook than I would for the text message.”

He said he hopes the new vendor will fix the problem.

“Faster is always better,” Tat said.

Daniel Cunningham, a second-year in chemical engineering, said while he personally never had any issues with alerts being late, he thinks other people will appreciate the increased speed.

“It’s probably better,” he said. “People don’t always check their email, but if they get a text (it could help).”

Another update involves severe weather alerts — Twenty First Century used to require the Department of Public Safety to manually opt into the system for students to receive messages. With Rave, however, notifications of tornado warnings will now be sent automatically.

“We want you to wake up to that,” Armstrong said. “We want you to be aware of that so you can take the appropriate action.”

Finally, a new feature will allow OSU to tap into some electronic sign boards on campus, including one at Ohio Union, to display alerts, something Armstrong said will likely be tested this year.

Overall, Armstrong said the switch to Rave will be a positive change for the Buckeye Alert System.

“I believe we got the best product on the market for an extremely competitive price,” he said.

There are 58,121 people who receive alerts at the OSU-Columbus campus, according to Armstrong. This number doubled from July 2012 because all phone numbers are pulled from BuckeyeLink and PeopleSoft, the Human Resources Information System application, to make those individuals part of the Buckeye Alert text messaging system.

Twenty First Century Communications did not return multiple requests for comment Thursday.

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