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Campus Life

Emergency Alert System to Be Tested on Friday

In the first test of its new emergency alert system, Boston University will send text messages on Friday, October 12, to the more than 23,000 students who have registered their mobile phone numbers with Send Word Now through the Student Link. The same test will send e-mail messages to more than 42,000 students, staff, and faculty on the Charles River and Medical Campuses. The Send Word Now system, designed to send warnings quickly to large numbers of people, was implemented in August following last April’s campus shootings at Virginia Tech.

At that time, the University informed all students that they would be required to log on to the Student Link and provide a mobile phone number where they could be reached. To date, about 70 percent of students have submitted their contact information, says Peter Fiedler, vice president for administrative services.

“It is absolutely imperative that all students comply,” says Fiedler. “It is the University’s duty to protect the safety and health of its community.”

Fiedler says that while faculty and staff are not required to provide emergency contact numbers, he strongly advises that they do so through the Employee Link. He says faculty and staff who provide a direct office number may receive an alert as a voice message.

Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore warns that students who fail to register their mobile phone numbers will be blocked from registering for spring semester classes.

“We don’t want to punish anyone,” Elmore says, “but we do want them to realize the importance of the situation.”

Boston University Police Chief Thomas Robbins, who will issue the messages, says the University looked at several vendors of alert systems and was convinced that Send Word Now provides the fastest and most thorough warnings.

In case of an emergency, University officials will also post information on the BU homepage, on the BU Emergency Management Web page, and on BU Today and will broadcast the message on the BU cable television system’s emergency alert system. Robbins says the police department has 50 state-trained and deputized officers with advanced training in disaster scenarios.

BU’s first test alert, on Friday, is intended to reveal any system shortcomings. Students who have provided their mobile phone numbers and do not receive a text message are asked to send an e-mail to swn@bu.edu with the message “Failed to receive SWN alert.” Students, staff, and faculty who do not receive an e-mail alert are asked to do the same.

Elmore advises students and employees to sign up now if they want to receive a text alert on Friday; it can take up to 48 hours from the time a phone number is registered on the Student Link or Employee Link before it is active in the Send Word Now system’s database.

All students, staff, and faculty are invited to send comments about the readability and effectiveness of the alert to swn@bu.edu.

Art Jahnke can be reached at jahnke@bu.edu.