[CSG Spring 2007] Policy discussion on Emergency Notification

Joel Smith from CMU is leading this discussion.

There’s a bunch of activity in Educause and other forums around this topic.

Strategies around specific emergencies could be very different depending on the nature of the emergency.

A quick survey of the membership: 84% of the respondents said there have been situations in recent years calling for emergency communications, including environment and weather, environmental health risks, dangerous or damaged facilities, etc.

How long does it take to send messages? Fastest is web posting, email is pretty fast, and text messaging is the least deployed. Joel notes that composing messages is not something that is built into our emergency processes and it’s difficult to do in many circumstances. At Columbia it took them eight hours to compose a message to inform people that the campus was closed in a snowstorm. It can also be hard to get hold of the right people to post and send messages.

Berkeley deployed PeopleLocator (http://peoplelocator.berkeley.edu/ )

Much is predicated on having good data, like cell numbers.

Bill notes that at Stanford they have an incident response team that’s separate from the emergency operations process.

Joel notes that it’s important to put the time that the next communication will take place in each emergency notification, in order to keep people from overloading the channel just to see if there are any updates.

MIT is looking very seriously at being able to send SMS messages. There’s some concern that you have to work closely with vendors to not have mass SMS messages classified as spams.

A few institutions in the room have some cell contact information for students, but nobody claims to have good directories of cell information.

Texas students had brought Mobile Campus on campus – but it peaked at about 7,000 students (out of 50,000) and appears to be on its way down – they think it’s because they get spammed with ads from them.

MIT is going to try some tests of emergency communications, asking people to respond if they receive the test messages. They are using mir3, which was contracted originally to contact emergency responders, but they expanded that to try to contact everybody. They hope to be able to use that test to gauge how good their contact info is, as well as how long it takes to get messages out. They’ll try sending both voice and text messages.

At Wisconsin they’re adding text asking people to update their contact info when they register for classes.

Several campuses have been updating PA systems on campus in the wake of recent emergency events.

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