Virginia Community College Tests High-Tech Alert System

Sep. 3--HAMPTON -- Thomas Nelson Community College plans to register 1,000 students, faculty and staff members this month for a trial run of a communications alert system that will send messages to cell phones and e-mail addresses.

The system, called e2Campus, is used at Penn State University and other schools, said Catherine Szpindor, the college's vice president for information technology.

The college paid "a couple thousand dollars" to perform the monthlong trial run, Szpindor said.

Administrators will meet in October to evaluate the system and recommend to President Charles A. Taylor's Cabinet whether to invest in it, she said.

The school also plans to install additional security cameras around campus to complement existing ones along main thoroughfares, as well as inside and outside some campus buildings, Szpindor said.

The security changes are among several being considered by the community college's administrators since the April 16 killings at Virginia Tech.

An independent review panel's report of the shootings, issued late Wednesday, recommended dozens of actions for college officials, law enforcement and the state government to take to prevent a similar tragedy from occurring.

TNCC officials also are considering whether to invest in alternate ways of alerting the campus of a major incident.

Szpindor said officials were looking into an audible campus-wide alarm, closed-circuit television messages or LCD screens around campus that would broadcast messages.

The university has campuses in Hampton, southeast Newport News and the Williamsburg area.

In the 2005-06 school year, the college enrolled 13,120 full- and part-time students.

Copyright (c) 2007, Daily Press, Newport News, Va. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.