More Adventures in Emergency Text-Messaging appeares in the New York Times and provides a fascinating insight into two instances where Short Message Service (SMS) was used to respond to real life emergencies in Purdue University and St. John’s University in the US.
At St. John’s, the “messages were sent so quickly that a student who helped subdue the suspect felt his cell phone vibrate with the information while he was restraining the gunman,” according to The Associated Press.
On the other hand, the system isn’t perfect. As a commentator to the post avers:
Well, I’m a law student at St. John’s University and I can tell you that the text messaging system did not work as well as this article contends.
I didn’t receive the text messages until 2:45. At 2:30, the facilities manager of our building came to class and told everybody to stay inside. At the end of class, I received 3 text messages from the university system simultaneously.
This may be Verizon’s fault, or the fact that I was in a basement classroom with poor reception perhaps had something to do with it. This doesn’t mean that St. John’s isn’t to be commended for implementing the text system, just that it shouldn’t be viewed as a panacea. In my situation, shoe leather reached me before the text message.
While it would be imprudent to rely solely on SMS based early warning, these two examples show that using such a system to complement and strengthen other emergency response plans can aid in more useful and timely responses.