Like many college students across the country, the tragedy at Virginia Tech last April left Chris Hill a changed young man. It changed the way he looked out upon the world. It changed the ease with which he normally left his NEO dorm room and the safety he felt in a classroom.

“It taught me not to take the smallness of our community for granted,” said Hill, an NEO sophomore. “You never know what is going to happen. Things like that could happen anywhere now.”

College administrators at NEO understood the same.  No school is immune to such violence and all college administrators now have to wonder what can be done to make their campus even safer, said Christen Stark, director of public relations and marketing. 

“The same week the shooting occurred, several administrators met to discus how NEO would handle such a situation,” Stark said.

“The question on every one's mind was how we would let our students and employees know that the campus was unsafe,” she said.

A tool called Code Red Emergency Broadcast System, commonly referred to as Reverse 911, provided the answer. NEO students and faculty are now able to register online for a program that would allow them to receive a voicemail and text message to alert them if the campus became unsafe. If such a situation ever arose, Stark said, all would know not to come to campus. The Reverse 911 tool would also be helpful in alerting those who were already on campus. 

“The Reverse 911 system will give NEO an immediate link to its students and employees,” Stark said. 

Hill said he feels more secure knowing that NEO has implemented the Reverse 911 system.

“I think it is an effective way to spread a message quickly,” he said. “In today's society, 90 percent of us have cell phones. We are checking our messages all the time.”

Reverse 911 is offered by a company called Emergency Communications Network Inc.

Only members of the NEO administration will have the authority to approve a message to be sent out. There is no limit to the number of students or employees who can be contacted via the Reverse 911 system. Everyone who has activated an account with Reverse 911 will receive a voicemail message, text message or both. 

NEO students or employees who have not yet registered their contact information with Emergency Communications Network Inc. can receive directions on how to activate their account online by contacting Stark at (918) 540-6211.

E-mails have been sent out to students and faculty with those directions.

If the phone number students or employees provide for the Reverse 911 system changes, they will be responsible for changing their registration information. There is no cost to register for Reverse 911. 

NEO administrators estimate that the college will be ready to send out a test message in early November.