The marketing that emergency notification firms employ to attract business has not been without controversy.
On April 18, 2007, two days after the Virginia Tech shooting, Missouri-based US Netcom put out a news release with the headline, "Could Emergency Phone Notification Have Prevented Virginia Tech Massacre?"
A blogger for Radar Magazine blasted US Netcom for "becoming the first company to try and make a buck off this massacre" and "spinning gold" from the tragedy.
Calls to US Netcom weren't immediately returned this morning.
The cost of the services provided by K12 and e2Campus are largely dependent on the number of students at a school. Packages from K12 cost an annual fee of $1.50 to $2 per student. E2Campus charges about $2 per student each year for text messaging, phone and e-mail alerts.
Colleges don't have to turn to outside companies for emergency notification services. Purdue University has enabled its universitywide e-mail system to send alert e-mails to 60,000 people in six minutes.
"It really didn't cost us anything," said Purdue spokeswoman Jeanne Norberg. "It required smart people to sit down and think about it and try to figure out away to make it faster."
"We're a major research university. We have the ability to do this," she said. "Perhaps others don't have the ability or don't have the expertise to do it, but we do."
But Purdue has reached out for help for another communications tool — text-messaging. In October, Purdue contracted with 2sms, a company based in Virginia and the United Kingdom, to provide text-messaging services. The university estimated that the service would cost between $15,000 to $20,000 per year.
Norberg said Purdue administrators were thinking about emergency notification systems long before Virginia Tech.
"It's obviously something that the technology made possible," she said, "and if the technology made it possible, we wanted to make it happen."