Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Blackberry and AlertFind

From ComputerWorld, E-mail alerts may not be best bet in an emergency like Va. Tech shooting:

Casey Paquet, the Web manager at Eckerd College, a liberal arts school in St. Petersburg, Fla., said Eckerd deployed an emergency notification system from MessageOne Inc. a year ago to better protect students in case of hurricanes and other weather emergencies. The AlertFind system allows the school to send custom on-the-fly alerts instantly to its 2,200 students, faculty and staff members during any emergency, Paquet said.

And by an odd bit of synchronicity, this article appeared in the same electronic issue:

The BlackBerry wireless e-mail service from Research In Motion Ltd. appears to have suffered a widespread outage that started last night in the U.S.


New York television news channel NewsChannel4 reported last night that the problem affected "all users in the Western hemisphere."

However, comments from operators in Asia and Europe, as well as postings to the BlackBerry Forums, suggested that the problem may be limited to North America.

"Officials with RIM said they are trying to reset the system and told NewsChannel4 that they are concerned that the backlog of data, which will rush through when it comes back on line, could cause a bigger problem," the news channel reported on its Web site.

RIM officials advised people who use Blackberry as a major way of communications to make back-up plans, the channel reported.

As we go forward with our crisis communication plan, we should keep in mind that a key feature of all successful natural communication systems is redundacy. It's not only about getting the right modes of communication, it's about getting enough modes of communication.

In Keene, it's probably important to note that U.S. Celluar had a massive outage last St. Patrick's Day, as all our students messaged each other they were back from Spring Break. The system also crashed during Pumpkin Fest as everyone mailed each other pictures of pumpkins.

I'm not saying we shouldn't investigate the option mentioned in the first article. Far from it. But we should keep in mind that a silver bullet solution is also a single point of failure.

So while discussions on campus-wide communications systems move forward in other departments, I'm going to be looking at expanding our toolbox of options. Small little initiatives to expand our ability to tap into extant student networks when we need to. Stuff to complement any larger initiatives we may be looking at.

Any suggestions?

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