“We live in the information age,” said Senator Skelos. “With cell phones, text messaging and mobile email and internet technology becoming ubiquitous features of modern life, this technology offers a tremendous opportunity to manage crisis situations and prevent future tragedy.”
Similar to the state Amber Alert system, Senator Skelos’ legislation will require the Department of Criminal Justice Services (“DCJS”) to develop an emergency notification communications system for use by the state’s public and private institutions of higher education. In the event of an emergency, appropriate officials from the college or university would submit an alert message and automated voice mail through a secure DCJS webpage and the system would send text, email and voice messages to each telephone number (cellular and traditional) and email address in the college’s database.
“As the horrific events unfolded at Virginia Tech last Monday, university officials needed a means of communicating with the members of the campus community,” said Senator Skelos. “This new initiative will provide New York’s public and private colleges and universities with such a tool.”
By creating a uniform format for these databases, each college and university would maintain their contact telephone numbers and email addresses for student, faculty and staff, thereby protecting the privacy of this information. Colleges and universities will be responsible for determining the scope and collecting this contact information. Should such a crisis situation arise, college personnel would upload both the message and the contact database to the secure DCJS webpage.
The legislation will prohibit mobile voice and data services providers from assessing fees for messages disseminated through this system. In addition, the bill will direct DCJS to work with the state’s colleges and universities to integrate these messages into other campus public information systems through this centralized internet portal. These outlets may include campus television and message board systems.
Pursuant to Senator Skelos’ legislation, DCJS would issue a Request for Proposal for development of this system. At present, numerous information technology vendors offer similar products.