UNIVERSITY PARK – This summer, Penn State will transition to a new emergency messaging system, away from the current service known as PSUTXT. The transition to the new service, which will be called PSUAlert, will begin in late May and will continue through June. This change will take place at all Penn State campuses, with the exception of Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, Pa.
No action is required at this time; detailed instructions will be distributed in late May and through June as the transition occurs. Penn State will continue to use PSUTXT for emergency alerts until the end of the day on June 30, at which point PSUAlert will become the University’s sole emergency messaging system.
To ensure the fastest possible delivery of critical information to Penn State campus communities in the event of an emergency, the new PSUAlert system will be reserved for students, faculty and staff. Students will be able to add parents to their PSUAlert accounts if they wish (for details, see below or visit the PSUAlert FAQs), and alert messages will be widely available on public platforms. Also, starting this summer, all students, faculty and staff will begin receiving alerts for their home campus at their Penn State-issued email address.
After PSUAlert launches this summer, students, faculty and staff who currently receive PSUTXT messages will need to re-enter their emergency contact information using the new PSUAlert signup portal. No subscriber information will be carried over from PSUTXT to PSUAlert, so it will be imperative that they take this step.
The new service will feature enhanced messaging capabilities, including the continued ability for enrollees to receive alerts by text message and email; the addition of phone-based voice alerts; and more robust integration with campus Facebook and Twitter accounts.
“PSUAlert, as is the case with PSUTXT currently, will play a critical role in Penn State’s emergency communications plans,” said Steve Shelow, assistant vice president for Police and Public Safety. “The system’s new capabilities will further strengthen our ability to quickly reach as much of our University community as possible when emergencies occur, so that people can make informed decisions about their own safety.”
Beginning in late May and continuing through June, communications and reminders about the transition will be distributed to students, faculty and staff by email. Communications also will be sent to current PSUTXT subscribers throughout the transition, and will be posted athttp://news.psu.edu/tag/PSUAlert.
Signup reserved for students, faculty and staff
The ability to sign up for PSUAlert will be limited to Penn State students, faculty and staff. The Clery Act, a federal law related to campus safety, requires that the entire campus community be alerted as quickly as possible in the event of an emergency. To help ensure the prompt delivery of alerts to the people directly affected by an incident on or near a Penn State campus, the University must limit who can access and be added to the system.
Students will be able to add parent/guardian/family member contact information to their PSUAlert accounts if they wish, but they will need to take the initiative to do so. Faculty and staff will be able to do the same for a spouse, partner or family member. However, all students, faculty and staff will be asked to limit the addition of others’ contact information when possible.
“In an emergency, seconds count. The larger the number of subscribers, the longer it will take alerts to reach those who are directly in Penn State’s care – our students, faculty and staff,” said Brian Bittner, director of Penn State Emergency Management. “Reserving signup for students, faculty and staff is a best practice among many of our peer institutions, whose goal in an emergency is the same as Penn State’s: to reach their campus communities with crucial information in the most efficient, effective ways possible.”
All members of the public will be able to follow PSUAlert messages for each campus on Facebook and Twitter. Specific links for those who wish to follow PSUAlert messages on Facebook and Twitter will be provided when the new system launches this summer.
In addition, in the event of an emergency, detailed communications will be distributed on many other platforms, including campus and university-wide websites, all of which are open to the public. Communications with the media also will play a crucial role in getting information to the public in the event of an emergency.