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Emergency Notification Test Set for Jan. 25

January 16, 2008 | by Alan K. Cubbage
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University will test a new emergency notification system at 3 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 25. Using the system, Northwestern hopes to be able to call, e-mail and send a text message to the entire campus community quickly.

The Jan. 25 test will check the ability of the new system to send the e-mails and text messages and the University's e-mail and phone system's capacity to receive those messages, said Bruce Lewis, associate vice president for public safety and chief of University Police.

The University is working with an outside vendor that specializes in mass notification systems. The test e-mail will be sent from the mailbox named nuemergencymgmt@northwestern.edu and the text message will be sent from the number 231-77.

"This is the first step in testing the capabilities of our emergency communications systems," Lewis said. "This will enable us to learn where further improvements may be needed."

Last quarter, all undergraduate students (except those enrolled in the School of Continuing Studies) were required to provide a telephone number where they can be reached at any time. Graduate and professional students also will be required later this year to provide their emergency notification numbers. Northwestern is also strongly encouraging faculty and staff to update their personal records to include an emergency notification number. Faculty and staff should do so through the HRIS system available on the Human Resources web page. Students should do so through the CAESAR on the Registrar's page.

The new system will simultaneously call, e-mail and send a text message (for those who have text messaging service on their cell phones) to everyone for whom the University has a valid phone number and e-mail address.

"If you do not receive a phone call, e-mail or text message on Jan. 25 sometime after 3 p.m., it means that the University does not have that information for you," Lewis said.

The URL for HRIS is: http: www.northwestern.edu/hr/hris. The URL for CAESAR is: http: www.northwestern.edu/caesar.

University officials cautioned that in a wide-scale emergency that affects the entire Chicago area, it is likely that cellular phone systems would be overwhelmed. As a result, even with the new emergency notification system, calls to cell phones may not get through.

Therefore, Northwestern is in the process of contracting with another firm for installation of a new outdoor alert system on the Evanston campus. The system will consist of loudspeakers mounted on buildings on the main campus and the athletic complex in Evanston. The outdoor alert system is slated to be ready for testing this spring, Lewis said.

On the Chicago campus, an outdoor alert system may not be feasible, so the University will look at address systems for inside buildings, Lewis added.

Topics: Campus Life