NOVA Alert system in its third year

Kate Drew

Over 12,000 subscribers have signed up for the NOVA Alert technology since its launch in 2007, according to Stephen Fugale, chief information officer for UNIT.

NOVA Alert was first introduced to the Villanova community as a communication tool to notify the public about emergencies on campus.

The system is free, subscription-based and open to anyone interested in receiving the alerts.

NOVA Alert has been well received by the Villanova community, and people are actively subscribing to the service. Once subscribed, there are no further steps necessary to maintain access.

As of now, 65 percent of the freshman class has subscribed to the service. By encouraging the freshman class to sign up at orientation, more students are ensured to receive the service for their entire four years at Villanova.

“We want to make sure we are hitting as many people as possible,” Fugale said.

Though referred to as NOVA Alert, the technology is actually called Roam Secure and runs on an external system.

The use on campus of an outside source protects the system against any problems that could arise within the Villanova infrastructure housed in Mendel Hall.

“I didn’t want the technology to be dependent on Villanova’s internal network,” Fugale said.

The product has been used by police authorities and government agencies as an emergency communication tool. It has the ability to send e-mail, text and voicemail messages. On campus, the technology has been used to send emails and text messages about campus incidents.

Both cell phones and pagers can receive the alerts. Advanced alert systems have become a strong trend at universities since the massacre at Virginia Tech in 2007. However, Villanova had been looking into text message technology for years prior to the shootings.

Interest in the product came from the need to have a detailed protocol for sending out alerts that was both timely and accurate.

“Villanova was really ahead of the curve in terms of getting this technology ready,” said David Tedjeske, director of Public Safety.

When an incident occurs, the shift supervisor in the Department of Public Safety contacts Tedjeske, who then runs through a quick approval process before sending the alert through the system.

Very few people are authorized to use the system, and messages are usually sent out by Tedjeske himself.

The challenge is communicating the problem in fewer than 110 characters quickly. Text message systems, like NOVA Alert, focus on sending out short warnings since text messages often have a character limit.

Facilities has pre-written messages stored as templates for incidents such as hostage situations, shooters on campus and weather issues, to expedite the process.

These pre-scripted messages allow for minimal editing in an emergency.

On Sept. 21st, Public Safety will be running a test of the system at noon.