Last modified: Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Sept. 26, 2007
Contract signed for IU-Notify system for emergency alerts: Product will allow university to target specific groups or all eight campuses, has GPS capability as well
by James Boyd
A contract has been finalized between Indiana University and a provider of an event notification system that will provide a sweeping method of alerting those on campus to any type of emergency.
The system will be called IU-Notify, and should be fully functional by the end of the calendar year, said Mark Bruhn, associate vice president for information and infrastructure assurance, on Tuesday.
Not only will students be able to sign up for the service, but so will administrators, faculty and staff members and even some parents.
Bruhn said the university will be able to target specific audiences or issue blanket notifications, depending on the nature of a situation.
If there's a tornado warning on the Gary campus, only those in that area would be notified, but if there were some security breach that affected all eight IU campuses and populations, then the system could accommodate that need as well.
In the wake of campus shootings at Virginia Tech and Delaware State University, university officials said it was important to have a system in place to get information out quickly and accurately to a large population.
IU spokesman Larry MacIntyre said the cost of the system will ultimately depend on the number of users in the system, but said a fair estimate for running it would be in the neighborhood of $225,000.
Bruhn said one of the primary reasons the university chose to go with the Connect-ED service — issued by NTI Group Inc. — was because of its ability to identify specific groups on campus.
"It's quite a bit easier in this product than in most other products we saw," Bruhn said. "They also had the ability to handle the volume."
If everyone eligible to sign up did so, the system could be looking at having upward of 120,000 subscribers.
One of the key features of the system that could benefit everyone in the future is the ability of Connect-ED to use Global Positioning System technology to target an audience solely by location. That could only be used by those with the technological devices capable of emitting a GPS signal, but many cell phones are beginning to have that capability built into their operating platforms.
Bruhn said that feature likely wouldn't be used initially, but would provide an excellent tool in getting a message to people in a specific area.
For example, if there was a situation that only involved Bryan Hall, the alert system could pinpoint those in the immediate vicinity and alert only them. It will take time for that feature to be put into use, but Bruhn said the fact that the feature existed in Connect-ED's program made it all the more attractive.
"We haven't explored that fully," he said, "but it's built into the product."
The university will use existing contact information for those on campus for the initial set-up, but more information can be entered through an online self-service portal called OneStart.
Bruhn said that way those who want to be subscribers can add things like personal cell phone numbers and nonuniversity e-mail addresses to receive notifications. The notifications would be sent out to every contact point available, simultaneously.
"The benefit is going to be the fact that if there's an emergency on campus, we have a way to get that information to them in ways that are most likely to reach them at any given point during their day," Bruhn said.
The university hopes to have the sign-up page on OneStart up and running within the next two or three weeks.
As the program becomes operational, a strategy/policy group will take up any issues or policies that need to be addressed. That group will be composed of students, faculty, administrators, and staff members.
Harris patrolling streets now: Former Indiana defensive tackle back in Bloomington working as a police officer
by Lynn Houser
From 1986-88, Walt Harris policed the middle of IU's defense. Today, he is policing the streets of Bloomington.
Harris, a 6-foot-4, 267-pound tackle in his playing days, is still an imposing specimen today as a Bloomington patrolman. The law abiding citizens of this city can be thankful he is on their side.
Harris is in his second go-around as a member of Bloomington's finest. He first served from 1991-93. In between he served 10 years with the metropolitan police department of Detroit, his home town. In 2003, he and his wife, Tiffany, decided to return to Bloomington.
"Basically, we came back for the quality of life," Harris said. "We both are alumni of IU and longed to come back."
Although he never had to dodge a bullet in Detroit, Harris did upon his return to Bloomington.
"I was walking through an apartment complex last spring, and some guy took a shot at me from about 10 feet away," he said. "I tell ya, 10 years in Detroit and had never been shot at, then I come back to Bloomington and ... "
Harris did lose some comrades in Detroit.
"I had partners and friends who left home for work and never returned," he said. "I went to a lot of police funerals. That's one of the things about this job. You leave home not knowing if you are going to return. In law enforcement, you read every day about 'Officer down.'â"
Harris is convinced his years under Bill Mallory helped prepare him to be a police officer.
"Football did a number of things," he said. "No. 1, it was the discipline. No. 2, it was the attention to detail, and then just being prepared to take on any task."
Harris looks back on his IU playing days with great pride. He played on Mallory's first three bowl teams and started on the 1988 Liberty Bowl champions. He was on the field the day IU knocked off Ohio State for the first time since 1951 and also there the day Indiana beat Michigan for the first time in 20 years.
"The Michigan game, you could feel it, could feel it from the trainers to the people who served the food, to the media," he said. "We knew we were going to win. It was a long time coming. We had that confidence in ourselves. When a team came to Bloomington and we locked the gate, we felt we could beat anybody. Coach Mallory made us believe it."
The mere mention of Mallory's name brings a smile to Harris's face.
"He was a no-nonsense coach," he said. "In our very first meeting, the first thing he said was, 'I am not going to have any athletic bums on this team.' He told us we were going to get up, go to class, conduct ourselves as men and told us we were going to be winners. He cared about us as individuals. He had an open door policy. You could go in and talk to him about anything."
Harris was no household name, but that also goes for the rest of the defensive units he played for.
"We were a bunch of no-name guys who were hungry," he said. "We just wanted to win and put Indiana football on the map."
Which made the signature wins and bowl games that much more satisfying.
"Just for the program, for the people of Bloomington, for the people of Indiana, it was a long-time coming," he said. "I'm glad I was there. I still tell my sons the war stories."
Harris gave pro football a shot. Coming out of IU he signed first with the Colts, then with the Dolphins, but injuries kept him from making the clubs. In the absence of football, police work has turned out to be a satisfying career.
"I like being a public servant, helping people," Harris said. "Every day is a new adventure."