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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2007 / 10 

Virginia Tech concludes test of VT Alerts system

October 11, 2007

Shortly after 11 a.m. yesterday, Virginia Tech initiated its first system-wide test of VT Alerts, an emergency notification system that can send text messages to cell phones, voice messages to non university telephones and cell phones, instant messages on the AOL, MSN, and Yahoo networks, and e-mail messages to non-Virginia Tech e-mail accounts.

As of yesterday, 18,266 students, faculty and staff signed up for the subscription service, which represents approximately 60 percent of the university community.

According to analysis provided by, 3n (National Notification Network), the California-based vendor who contracted with Virginia Tech to establish VT Alerts, the first attempt to deliver the test message to all subscribers was sent in 18 minutes. Second and third attempts to deliver the message (to those who requested multiple deliveries) were completed in 31 minutes. After the two-hour test concluded, approximately 13 percent of the recipients confirmed receipt of the message.

At 1 p.m. Wednesdsay, the university distributed a campus wide e-mail informing the community that the test was complete. Community members were asked to complete a survey regarding what they experienced during the test. As of 4 p.m. yesterday, 711 people reported through the survey that they did not receive the test message.

Virginia Tech and 3n will continue to review data from the test and the survey to determine why some subscribers did not receive the test message. Some of the external issues that can delay or prevent recipients from receiving an alert include telephone carrier delays delivering SMS text-messages, instant message systems (AOL, MSN, Yahoo) not configured to accept messages from the university, mobile phone reception issues, as well as individuals opting out of receiving messages from the university. If issues are found within the VT Alerts system, adjustments will be implemented.

Of the 18,266 who signed up for VT Alerts, approximately 87 percent are students, 8 percent are faculty and 11 percent are staff (Note: totals exceed 100 percent because individuals may have more than one affiliation.)

Of the subscribers, approximately 43 percent opted to receive messages using one method, 30 percent selected two methods, and 26 percent signed up for the maximum of three delivery methods.

Text message is the most widely selection option of delivery; selected by 77 percent of all subscribers. A voice message to a mobile telephone is next at 34 percent, followed by an instant message (31 percent), a message to a non Virginia Tech e-mail (15 percent), voice mail to a home phone (10 percent), voice mail to an “other” phone (7 percent), and voice mail to an office phone (6 percent). Percentage totals exceed 100 percent because subscribers can sign up for more than one contact method.

The primary or first method of message delivery selected most by subscribers is a text message at 72 percent, followed by a voice message to a mobile phone (16.2 percent), an instant message (3.8 percent), a message to a non-Virginia Tech e-mail (2.9 percent), a voice message to an office phone (2.6 percent), a voice message to a home phone (2.1 percent), and a voice message to an “other” phone (0.5 percent).

VT Alerts is part of a fully integrated and coordinated notification system maintained by Virginia Tech’s Office of University Relations. It augments other communications tools, including the university homepage and the Virginia Tech News homepage, broadcast e-mail alerts, broadcast voice-mail messages, a recorded hotline (540-231-6668), the university switchboard, and a coordinated use of public media outlets, used to convey urgent messages.

VT Alerts is available to all Virginia Tech students, faculty and staff. Step-by-step subscription instructions are posted at Students and university employees need an active PID and password to access the system. Once logged in, up to three contact methods may be added to the individual's account, with the option of ranking those methods in order of preference.

In an effort to reach the mobile university population, Virginia Tech began exploring options last fall to expand and enhance its campus notification program. In June 2007, Virginia Tech reached an agreement with 3n (National Notification Network) to co-develop the VT Alerts system. The addition of the 3n product gives members of the Virginia Tech community more choices as to how they would like to receive important notifications or weather-closing information.