Several Thousand Sign Up For Virginia Tech Emergency Alert System

Monday, July 9th 2007, 10:28 am
By: News On 6

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) _ More than 4,300 students and employees at Virginia Tech have signed up for a new emergency alert system, several months after a student gunman killed 32 people and himself on campus.

The sign-up period for the campus emergency alerts by phone, e-mail or instant message began July 2, one week before the school's first freshman orientation session for the fall semester.

``Of course, this is just the beginning,'' university spokesman Larry Hincker said. He said he expects more people will sign up as incoming students learn more about campus and as upperclassmen return from summer break. Virginia Tech has about 26,000 students.

The university began looking into such a system after an escaped prisoner interrupted the start of the fall 2006 term. Classes were canceled and the campus was closed Aug. 21 while authorities searched for the escapee, who was accused of shooting and killing a deputy sheriff and hospital security guard.

The university was in the process of selecting a vendor for the system when gunman opened fire on campus April 16. That morning, the school sent a mass e-mail about two hours after the first victims were shot in a dormitory. The e-mail, which warned students to be cautious and contact police about anything suspicious, went out about 20 minutes before the gunman opened fire again.

Hundreds of colleges across the country have been promoting systems designed to notify their campus communities immediately in case of an emergency. The expanded system at Virginia Tech will allow students to sign up their parents, as well.