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Emergency Notification Test Successful

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February 6, 2008
EVANSTON, Ill. --- A test of a new emergency notification system held Jan. 25 went "exceptionally well," University officials said. Using a new mass callout system, the University was able to contact 95 percent of students, faculty and staff who had supplied a phone number within an hour of the test's starting time, and most people even more quickly.

"For a first test of the system, it went exceptionally well," said Bruce Lewis, associate vice president for public safety and chief of Police. "It provided us with our first look at how this system would perform in an actual emergency."

Approximately 20,500 people had provided an emergency notification phone number. For students, that was a specific number that they had designated. For faculty and staff, the numbers were office, home and/or cellular telephone numbers provided in HRIS. The new system successfully reached all but 925 people. Those that could not be reached were mainly because there was no answer, either live or an answering machine, at the phone number that had been provided.

In addition to the report generated by the callout system, the University also sent an e-mail to all students, faculty and staff who have an e-mail address on the "@northwestern.edu" domain, asking them to respond to a survey on the effectiveness of the test. More than 6,000 people did so.

The survey results showed that there were a number of people on the "@northwestern.edu" domain who did not receive the emergency message. The vast majority of those (85 percent) were students and nearly 70 percent of those students were in either the Graduate School or one of Northwestern's professional schools. Those students had not been required to provide a phone number prior to the test.

The University will begin requiring graduate and professional students to provide an emergency notification number, starting this month. Undergraduate students were required to provide such a number last fall.

"Clearly, the technology of the mass callout system works and works well," Lewis said. "However, in order for it to be fully effective, we need to have phone numbers for as many members of the Northwestern community as possible."