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Students, staff, faculty can receive emergency alerts via e-mail, cell phones

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If an overnight snow storm shuts down a Portland Community College campus, most people find out about it by listening to the radio or watching television during breakfast.

But if an emergency occurs in the middle of the day, how does the word get out? Thanks to a new service, the warnings can come to you via e-mail or as a text message on your cell phone.

It’s called Flash Alert and the service is free.

“The service is up and running and it costs you nothing” said Dana Haynes, manager of public affairs for PCC. “The problem is, too few people have signed up for it. We have commuter campuses, and at any given time, scores of people are en route to PCC. If something bad happens, it will be tough to let them know. Ideally, we’d like every student, staff and faculty member to sign up to Flash Alert.”

Flash Alert would be used by college officials to warn about any emergency, from the common power outage or snow storm, to an active shooter or an earthquake.

Tammy Billick, manager of technology solutions for PCC, knows about Flash Alert from the perspective of a computer expert, but also from the perspective of a mom.

“At the beginning of the last school year, my kids’ school asked me if I wanted to sign up with my e-mail address to be alerted to school emergencies,” Billick said. “I said ‘yes’ and promptly forgot all about it. Last January, we woke up to snow, which was just starting. Before the news of a closure hit the Web sites or the news stations, I got the e-mail saying the schools were closed. My kids were ecstatic, of course, but what I really liked was that it came from my school, so I was certain it was the correct information.”

Signing up for Flash Alert is simple: Just go to http://flashalert.net and follow these steps:

  • Click “subscribe”
  • Write your e-mail address where indicated
  • At “Add Organization,” Pick Portland/Vancouver/Salem
  • Select a topic, such as Public Colleges and Universities, or Clackamas County Schools
  • If you’ve picked public colleges, one of the options is PCC. Click that.
  • Check-mark the box for “Emergency Alerts.”

Done.

If you want to add a cell phone number, follow those directions (they differ for different carriers, such as Verizon or Cingular/AT&T). Cell phone numbers should be written down as 10 digits with no dashes.

Go through the same steps to add other organizations, such as Portland State University or Portland Public Schools. You can get as many alerts as you like.

From the home page, you also can select “News” and you’ll be shown press releases distributed from which ever institutions you’ve selected.

Haynes said the college is expanding the variety of media used to alert students, staff and faculty to emergencies or closures. Besides Flash Alert, notices appear on www.pcc.edu, on MyPCC, and are routed to area newspaper, televisions and radio stations.

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »

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