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Engineering for Emergencies

There really isn't a solution to these kinds of problems. As the article notes, public networks really can't be engineered to handle extraordinary levels of demand.

Public networks can't. But what about private networks?

Certain private networks do have to provide communications even in emergencies--or especially in emergencies. The obvious example is college campuses.

The website Campus Technology has a very nice, in-depth article on the "7 Best Practices for Emergency Notification." Some on the list deal with process issues, but most deal with the approach to technology, including: "One Size Does Not Fit All: Simultaneously Push Alerts in Different Formats," and "Layer Your Approaches to Communication."

This resonated with something I'd heard earlier this year, at the AT&T Focus conference in Chicago, the carrier's user group. BCR Training helped assemble the program, and one of the speakers, Walt Magnussen of Texas A&M, spoke about trends in higher ed IT. On the subject of emergency notification, as I wrote in BCR eWeekly at the time,

A&M found that the best approach is to provide multiple contact channels-SMS is a student favorite, but email is worth adding on, and there is also the ability of adding "reverse 911," i.e., a dial-out notification sent to students' phone numbers. A test of Code Maroon showed a 90 percent success rate in reaching students, Magnussen said.

Other industry verticals will benefit from what colleges are learning as they deploy systems that a university might hope never to use, but knows must work if needed.