Frequently asked questions about ISU Alert

The basics

What is ISU Alert?

ISU Alert is a system for quickly delivering emergency phone, text and e-mail messages to Iowa State University students, faculty and staff. ISU Alert is built upon the Connect-ED® System, developed specifically for schools, colleges, and universities by BlackboardConnect.

The system will be activated when there are immediate threats to the safety of those in the university community. Notifications will be sent via landline phones, cell phones, text messages and e-mail. ISU Alert complements other forms of emergency notification, such as the siren system, university web site, public address systems, personal communication and signage. Messages will be brief, include basic information and provide instructions on how to obtain more details.

Who decides when an emergency warrants sending out an ISU Alert?

Generally, the Department of Public Safety will initiate emergency notifications. Other units, such as the President's Office, Critical Incident Response Team and University Relations, will be able to send the notifications.

The system will be used only for emergencies that pose an immediate danger to the university community. Examples include hazardous materials incidents, bomb threats or other immediate dangers to the community.

How many messages will I receive during a single emergency?

You will receive at least two messages via each of the notification methods you have specified. The first message will alert you to the emergency. Subsequent messages may provide more information or indicate the incident has been cleared or resolved.

How fast will the emergency notification get to me?

The speed of the message will vary with the size of the audience, network congestion and time of day. The goal is to deliver a message to everyone within 30 minutes.

How can an ISU Alert reach so many people in only a few minutes?

The mass notification system used by ISU Alert includes sophisticated methods of call routing, throttling and load balancing to adjust to congestion that can occur among local telecommunications providers.

Signing up, updating your info

How do I sign up to receive emergency messages?

Phone numbers and e-mail for most students and employees will be added to the ISU Alert system.

To ensure you will be notified in an emergency:

  • Sign on to AccessPlus.
  • On your "Home" tab, click "ISU Alert" to see your ISU Alert notification information.
  • If your notification status is "active," you'll receive up to three alerts in an emergency -- one for each of the following fields that are completed:
    • Phone number for voice alerts
    • Phone number for text alerts
    • E-mail address for e-mail alerts
  • If your notification status is "inactive," you will not receive any alerts.

How do I change my emergency phone numbers or e-mail?

To make changes:

  • Sign on to: AccessPlus.
  • On your "Home" tab, click "ISU Alert" and
  • Put your phone numbers and e-mail address in the form fields

In an emergency, you want to be found quickly, so use your most frequently accessed phone numbers (in many cases, this may be a cell phone) and e-mail account.

Can I receive more than one voice, text or e-mail message?

Not yet. Once the notification system is fully functional, individuals may be allowed to provide additional notification information.

If I change my ISU Alert preferences, when do they take effect?

Each evening (Monday-Friday, excluding holidays), officials update ISU Alert information.

Can I decline to receive emergency messages?

Yes. You can decide what, if any, emergency messages you receive. Carefully consider whether you want to forgo receiving any notification in the event of a potential threat to your safety.

To decline receipt of emergency notifications:

  • Sign on to AccessPlus
  • Click "ISU Alert"
  • Remove your voice phone number, text phone number and/or e-mail address from the form

Can parents sign up to receive emergency messages?

Our first concern in an emergency is getting the word out as quickly as possible to our students, faculty and staff. When we add more people to the notification list -- for example, students' parents or other relatives -- we may slow the notification to those in the campus area who may be in immediate danger. For that reason, we ask that parents and members of the public watch the university homepage ( during an emergency.

Text messages

How do I sign up to receive text messages?

  • Sign on to: AccessPlus.
  • On your "Home" tab, click "ISU Alert"
  • In the "Phone # for Text Alerts" section, submit a phone number for a text-enabled phone
  • Your info will be sent to ISU Alert and you'll subsequently receive a text message confirming your desire to receive text alerts.

*Your information is sent to the ISU Alert service nightly (Monday-Friday excluding holidays). ISU Alert will respond with confirmation text messages sent between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. (central time).

I signed up for texts, but I'm not receiving them. What do I do?

Unsubscribing and re-subscribing corrects the issue 99 percent of the time. To unsubscribe, text "STOP ISU" to 23177. After you receive the message confirming opt-out, re-subscribe by texting "SUBSCRIBE ISU" to 23177.

Why did I receive a text message from ISU Alert confirming my request to get emergency text messages?

Mobile phone companies require that text messaging services confirm your request to receive text alerts.

What will the confirmation message say?

ISU Alert: You are now confirmed to receive alerts from us. More info text reply "HELP" or "STOP ISU" to opt-out.

What number will these text messages display?

The incoming number on text alerts will be 23177. Please program this number into your contacts as "ISU ALERT."

What's Iowa State's account code?

ISU Alert's SMS Account Code is "ISU."

I do not want to receive text messages. What do I do?

You may opt out at any time by removing your "Phone # for Text Alerts" from your ISU Alert page on AccessPlus. Alternatively, you can opt out by texting "STOP ISU" or "QUIT ISU" to 23177. If you opt out via this method, the only way to opt back in for text alerts is to text "SUBSCRIBE ISU" to 23177.

I opted out of text alerts. How do I opt back in?

If you opted out by clearing your ISU Alert phone number for text alerts, simply resubmit your "Phone # for Text Alerts" on your ISU Alert page on AccessPlus. The ISU Alert service will then re-initiate the opt-in process and send you a confirmation text message.

If you opted out by texting "STOP ISU" or "QUIT ISU" to 23177, you must opt back in by texting "SUBSCRIBE ISU" to 23177.

How can I tell if I've opted out of text alerts?

Your AccessPlus ISU Alert page has an indicator that tells you if you have opted out.

I signed-up to receive text alerts. Why haven't I received a confirmation message?

Each evening (Monday-Friday, excluding holidays), officials update ISU Alert information. Text alert confirmations subsequently are sent (Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. CST). Even if you do not receive a confirmation message, you will receive text alerts.

Text messaging is enabled on my mobile phone. Why didn't I receive a confirmation?

Currently, subscribers of T-Mobile, Metro PCS, Cricket and some others aren't able to receive confirmation requests. If you sign up for text messages from ISU Alert, you will receive them, without need of confirmation. In the future, these mobile phone providers may require confirmation. If so, you'll be sent a confirmation request then, and you should reply with the appropriate text shown on your phone.

I didn't receive a confirmation message because my phone wasn't text-enabled. Now it is. What's my next step?

First, make sure you have provided your "Phone # for Text Alerts" on your AccessPlus ISU Alert page. See "How do I sign up to receive text messages" above.

If you have already signed up, simply text "SUBSCRIBE ISU" to 23177. The ISU Alert service will re-initiate the opt-in process and send you a confirmation message.

I changed my mobile phone provider, do I need to opt-in again?

No, as long as your phone number remains the same. Once your phone number has been opted-in, it stays registered in the system.

Security of your information

If I use my cell phone number for ISU Alert, will it become public?

If you've listed your cell phone number in the ISU Alert section of AccessPlus, it will not be shared or used for anything but the emergency notification system.

Who will have access to my emergency phone number(s) and e-mail?

The data will only be used by those who send emergency messages or occasionally, test the emergency system. It will not be shared with anyone else.

Eligibility to receive alerts

What does "active" or "inactive" status mean?

Your ISU Alert page on AccessPlus indicates your current notification status, which is either "active" or "inactive." If it's "active," you are eligible to receive an emergency alert IF your information page also contains a phone number or e-mail address. If your status is "inactive," you are not eligible to receive an alert in an emergency.

Employees and students should check their status on AccessPlus. Students with further questions about their status should contact the Registrar's Office, (515) 294-1840. Employees should contact Human Resource Services, (515) 294-6458.

Who is eligible to receive ISU Alert messages?

You're eligible to receive ISU Alert messages if you're on "active" status.

STUDENTS: You are on "active" status if you're enrolled in at least one ISU course and one of the following conditions exist:

  • It's 10 or fewer days prior to the start of a semester
  • It's 7 or fewer days past the end of a semester
  • Classes are in session
  • It's summer session and you are enrolled in at least one ISU summer session course

FACULTY/STAFF: You are on "active" status if:

  • You are a current employee

TEMPORARY AND STUDENT EMPLOYEES: You are on "active" status if:

  • You have been paid in the past two months

Phone voice alerts

My telephone is forwarded to somewhere or someone else. How do I get the alert?

ISU Alert will follow your forwarding path.

My telephone has a routing message, e.g., press "1" for Mary, press "2" for John. Will we get the alert?

No, ISU Alert cannot traverse an automated answering system. Mary and John will not receive the alert.

What happens if my phone is busy when an alert is sent?

ISU Alert will disconnect and retry two more times.

What if I have voice mail or an answering machine?

ISU Alert will attempt to leave a message on the voice mail system or the answering machine.

E-mail alerts

What e-mail address will show when an emergency message is incoming?

The message will come from "ISU Alert <>."


If there appears to be an emergency and I haven't yet received a message on my phone or e-mail, what can I do?

Check the ISU homepage at for emergency updates.

There was a test or real emergency and I didn't receive an alert. What should I do?

Employees whose status is "active" should contact Human Resources Services. Students on "active" status should contact the Registrar's Office. Those whose status is "inactive" should review the "Who is eligible to receive ISU Alert messages?" section in this FAQ.


How much does the emergency notification system cost?

Iowa State pays approximately $40,000 annually for emergency notification services. That breaks down to $1 per year for each ISU student and $2 for each employee, plus some additional fees.

What will ISU Alert cost me?

The university funds the ISU Alert system. The only costs you might incur would be from your cell phone provider. Depending on your phone plan, you might incur additional costs for text or voice messages.

Other emergency measures

Are there other emergency notification systems at Iowa State?

Other notification systems include: