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NORMAL — Facebook and Twitter will be part of an emergency alert test by Illinois State University at 1:50 p.m. Thursday.

Eric Hodges, ISU's associate director of emergency preparedness, said the two social media sites were added after a discussion on campus about how to more effectively contact young people.

“A lot of people that we're trying to reach aren't going to use conventional means,” such as the university's website, Hodges said.

Also new to the test will be a system called the Alertus-Desktop computer pop-up. Set up in 12 classrooms at this point, it causes emergency alerts to pop up on computers that are in use, Hodges explained.

This popup, along with voice-over Internet protocol phones in classrooms, are ways to reach people on campus who might have their cellphones turned off, he said.

ISU's website, public space digital display boards, registered cellphones and email also will be part of the test, according to the university.

ISU's emergency alert system is tested each fall and spring semester, Hodges said. It can be used for any emergency situations, including tornado warnings.

The last major use of the alert system was Nov. 17 when a series of storms hit the area, including the powerful tornado that struck Washington, Hodges said.

The alert system has been in place at ISU for several years, he said.

Such systems have become increasingly common on campuses nationwide following deadly mass shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007 and Northern Illinois University in 2008.

All ISU email accounts automatically are part of the alert system. Students, faculty and staff also can opt into a text alert system.

More than 40 percent of ISU students have signed up for the text alerts, while the national average is less than 20 percent, Hodges said.

The university also is asking students, faculty and staff to become familiar with emergency guide flip charts posted in classrooms and emergency response plans in individual departments as well as the Campus Safety and Security webpage — www.ilstu.edu/security — which in an actual emergency would contain additional information, such as what action to take.

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Education Reporter

Education Reporter for The Pantagraph.

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