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University tests alert systems

Karen Langley | Monday, November 5, 2007

The University performed a successful test of ND Alert, the new emergency communications system, Friday afternoon, an Office of Information Technology spokesman said.

The trial included the launch of emergency.nd.edu, a portal for ongoing information during any crisis, and a test implementation of the two-part ND Alert notification system.

The notification system includes the distribution of emergency messages to student, faculty and staff phones and e-mail account, as well as a broadcast to any television sets turned on in dorms, common areas and offices. The broadcast is possible through the University’s Comcast cable system.

While the Office of Information Technology (OIT) was still gathering and analyzing data Friday afternoon, Jay Steed, executive assistant to Chief Information Officer Gordon Wishon, said the test was an overall success.

“We had to do a little bit of tweaking for the e-mails going to Notre Dame e-mail accounts,” he said.

OIT workers had to modify the configurations that control campus-wide e-mail distribution, he said. Not all test e-mails were -received immediately Friday afternoon, but Steed said there are now no restrictions to ND Alert e-mails.

The emergency response system has been in the works since University President Father John Jenkins created a University-wide committee to address the issue toward the end of 2006, University spokesman Don Wycliff said.

The April 16 Virginia Tech massacre revealed a need to have a systematic way of notifying the University community of any emergency, he said.

“We already had some systems available,” Wycliff said. “We soon decided we needed something better.”

The notification system will only be implemented if there is an extreme emergency presenting imminent danger, Steed said. These messages will advise recipients about what actions they should take at once and where to find more detailed information about the emergency, he said.

University committees are currently discussing what levels of emergency will trigger what response, Wycliff said.

“The basic idea is if life and limb are in danger, we want to have the system and

be able to use it,” he said.

The Web site will provide detailed ongoing information about these and less severe situations, such as dangerous weather or class cancellations, Steed said. Information about extreme emergencies will also be broadcast on channel 2 on TV.

All University e-mail accounts and phone numbers are automatically used by the ND Alert system, but personal cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses must be provided by the user.

Many more students than faculty or staff have provided cell phone numbers for use in the system, Steed said.

Out of 11,890 students, 89 percent have provided cell phone numbers for the alert system, he said. Twenty-one percent of faculty members and 23 percent of staff workers have provided cell phone numbers, Steed said. He said there are 4,995 total faculty and staff at the University.

Students can register or update cell and home phone numbers and personal e-mail addresses by contacting the Registrar’s Office. Faculty and staff can provide or update their contact information through the Resources tab of InsideND or by contacting the Office of Human Resources. Reminder e-mails recommending the provision of contact information will be sent to the campus community in the future, Steed said.