Problems fixed before second Illini-Alert test

While there were initial problems with delayed or unreceived text alerts during a Feb. 17 test, most of the problems with the Illini-Alert mass text message system have been addressed in preparation for its second test at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Out of the 25,975 text messages sent out during the previous test, about 3,500 were rejected, said Michael Corn, chief privacy and security officer for the University. Corn attributed this problem to connection issues between the alert system and AT&T.;

“There are a few things that didn’t work as well as we wanted them to, but that’s why you test,” said Corn. “Text messages didn’t go as smoothly as we hoped.”

As of Friday, all new network connections between the vendor and AT&T; are believed to be fully enabled, he said. Measures have also been taken to increase the speed of delivery.

“As long as emergency text messaging has been around, AT&T; has generally not wanted to deliver emergency messages,” Corn said. “I think it’s a liability question, but that has been resolved.”

There were also problems with some of the nearly 100,000 e-mails sent out via the text alert system during the Feb. 17 test.

“Not all e-mail will get delivered no matter how fast we push it out,” Corn said. “You may have Gmail running, and it flags it as spam.”

Gmail and Yahoo! flagged some of the e-mails as spam, but have since promised to send it as regular mail, Corn said.

Corn said provisions have also been taken to make the system accessible to people with disabilities.

Students have mixed opinions.

“I think it’s a great way, because students usually have their phones on them,” said Tiffany Arenson, sophomore in LAS. Arenson said she received the alerts promptly during the first tests.

Prateek Arora, freshman in Engineering, has not signed up for Illini-Alert, but expressed concerns about the system’s speed, as one of his friends got the text message more than 90 minutes after it was sent out.

“In terms of an emergency, that probably won’t work,” he said.

Students can still sign up for the text alert system online at emergency.illinois.edu.

Corn said he thinks people may be getting annoyed with the tests, but the University is only conducting them to be sure the system runs smoothly.

“This will be kind of the final acceptance test,” Corn said. “If everything goes as we expect, we’ll pay the vendor and call ourselves done, so to speak.”

Colleen Vest contributed to this report