ORONO, Maine -- The University of Maine is poised to implement a new communication system put in place in response to the shootings last April at Virginia Tech that left 33 people dead.
The university expects to have the system in place by Sept. 1.
"This technology allows us to communicate instantly with a large group of people in our community," spokesman Joe Carr said. "That's critical in a time-sensitive situation where getting information out is the first order of business.
"A bonus in this case is that we're able to use cellphone technology, which is an ideal way to communicate with students," he said.
Other units of the state university system have joined the flagship Orono campus in upgrading their notification capabilities.
Similar systems are under consideration at the Farmington and Fort Kent campuses, while the University of Southern Maine has a plan to send information automatically to emergency response team members by phone, cellphone, text messaging and e-mail.
Virginia Tech officials came under criticism after the shootings for failing to act quickly enough to notify students and employees of the threat.
At Orono, students, staff, and faculty who register on the Web will receive emergency notifications in the form of text messages on cellphones or in e-mail messages or both. The system allows for delivery to personal communication devices, text pagers, and user home pages on Google, AOL, or My
There were two bomb scares at the University of Maine after the shootings, and school officials said the new system would have made it easier to notify community members about what was happening and where to go.
"In our case, President [Robert] Kennedy instructed us to address the issue in a comprehensive way and to put in place the procedures that will assure effective communications in the event of a serious emergency situation that requires mass notification," said Robert Dana, dean of students.
In addition, the university is installing an alarm that can be heard throughout the campus to signal students and others to check cellphones, e-mail, or the university website for more information.
"It's a critical part of the emergency notification system that we're developing," Carr said.