Mass-notification system provider 3n Global today announced that Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Alberta have selected the 3n InstaCom Campus Alert system to help deliver multimode alert notifications throughout the campus during critical incidents, as well as for day-to-day matters.

The need for educational institutions to be able to communicate to students, employees and parents quickly was highlighted during last year’s shootings at Virginia Tech University, which is now a 3n customer. In the aftermath of the shootings at the school, commercial voice communications quickly reached capacity, and several people on campus at the time noted that they had better success communicating via text messaging on cell phones.

As a result, several companies began offering text-message alert services to universities, but carriers operating the networks on which those services ride have noted that their systems have capacity limitations for delivering text messages, which can result in delayed delivery.

Such realities make any single-mode method of delivering emergency alerts problematic, because “you’ll never be able to predict what kind of communications system is going to fail” in a given circumstance, said Marc Ladin, 3n’s vice president of corporate marketing. With this in mind, 3n leverages multiple communications paths to help ensure that emergency alerts reach their intended destination.

“What we have as a philosophy is a multimodal communications strategy, which allows us to go through all the individual’s contact paths, whether it’s satellite phones, home phones, office phones, cell phones, e-mail, instant messages, text messages, faxing or paging,” Ladin said during an interview with Urgent Communications. “It’s a combination of those that is really the critical piece of having a prudent, comprehensive notification system.”

Ladin said 3n uses “intelligent messaging,” in which each individual user can determine the notification delivery method that is best for them at a given time—for instance, an office number while at work, a cell-phone number on the weekend or a text-message or e-mail address. If a method of delivery is blocked because that network is unavailable, the system tries to deliver the notification via another mode. In addition, the system provides a method for recipients to confirm receipt of the notification.

“There are 50,000 people living, learning and working at our five campuses on any given day, and they are spread out over a large area,” Philip Stack, the University of Alberta’s associate vice president of risk-management services, said in a statement. “Our ability to communicate with them during a major emergency is a critical part of our preparedness plan. With 3n, we have a robust communications solution and a reliable partner in our goal to be a safe and connected university.”