Last week, the shooting death of Wesleyan University student Johanna Justin-Jinich shocked the small city of Middletown, Connecticut. Even though, according to what police have said, it sounds like she was the sole target of an alleged stalker, university authorities did the right thing: They sent text and email alerts to students, canceling events and keeping them updated on the crisis.

That’s what’s so great about digital marketing strategies: They can be used for the greater good. In this case, Wesleyan University used a multi-channel digital marketing-like strategy as part of its Rapid Alert System for emergencies.

The school sent text messages to students–smart, because young adults never go anywhere without their phones, and so they would get the news and safety tips right away, no matter where they were. Officials also sent email messages, which would reach students once they were safely back in their dorms and waiting for more information. (Emails could also reach a limited number students who had cell phones with email capabilities, but text was the best way to ensure reaching as many phones as possible during the first critical moments after the shooting.) The university also posted updates on its website, viewable to both students on campus and their worried parents far away.

We’ve talked about using SMS (and to a lesser extent email) for emergencies in past Digital Marketing Blog posts. The mobileStorm platform, we’ve said before, can be used to send mass emergency alerts, as part of an overall public safety strategy. (Interested readers should contact the mobileStorm sales team via email or toll-free phone call).

Though Ms. Justin-Jinich’s death is a horror, at least no one else got hurt. Maybe because students were warned well enough in advance to retreat immediately to their dorms–preventing the shooter from targeting any more victims. Wesleyan University’s usage of SMS and email is a great lesson for any institution or government body that is considering ways to best reach denizens during times of crisis.