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Campus Life

Test of BU Alert System Tomorrow

Annual event is crucial for safety

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BU Alert, the University’s phone, text, and email warning system, will conduct a test tomorrow, Wednesday, October 12, at 10:50 a.m. The annual test, which is required by the U.S. Department of Education, will be sent to all students, faculty, and staff who have registered their information through the Student Link or through the BU Works Central website. Anyone who has provided contact information to the BU Alert System and does not receive test messages tomorrow is asked to email swn@bu.edu with the message “Failed to receive SWN alert.”

The BU Alert System is used in circumstances where the BU community is at risk or when important information must be disseminated quickly campus-wide. The emergency notification system works through Send Word Now updates, which are distributed through text messages, phone calls, emails, web page banners (seen on bu.edu), and updates to BU websites, including BU Today and BU Emergency Management. Tomorrow’s test will evaluate all modes of the emergency alert system.

Boston University Police Chief Thomas Robbins says the alerts are critical to public safety. “They’re able to almost instantly tell students, faculty, and staff about something that could cause harm,” Robbins says. “It’s key.”

The alert system was put in place in 2008 and has been used nearly three dozen times. Since January, there have been nine alerts, according to Stephen Morash, director of emergency response planning in BU’s emergency preparedness office. Several advised the community of school closings and delays related to last winter’s blizzards, and one warned of a bank robbery in Brookline. The most recent provided information about the earthquake that struck the area this past August, assuring people that no buildings had been damaged and that operations were continuing as normal.

“We’re very selective about when we use the alert system,” says Peter Fiedler (COM’77), vice president for administrative services. “We want people to understand when they receive a BU Alert message that it’s providing critical information. We don’t want people treating it like spam.”

To date, only 39 percent of faculty and staff have registered their mobile phone numbers with the BU Alert System, says Fiedler, who urges those who have not yet registered to do so by going to the BU Works Central website and logging in. From there, click on the Employee Self-Service tab and the personal information tab and then proceed to the BU Alert information tab.

“We’d like to impress upon people that in order for this system to be effective, it needs to have everyone’s commitment,” Fiedler says.

Students are required to register their mobile phone numbers with the BU Alert System or they are not permitted to register for classes. Students can update their contact information on the Student Link.

While some students complain that the alerts are bothersome, Fiedler stresses the University’s obligation to help students stay safe.

“We need to communicate with people rapidly, and they need to know about how to protect their personal safety and those around them,” he says. “It’s a wake-up call that you have to be vigilant all the time. We’re not trying to hassle people or water down the system. We have the system, we’re mandated to do it, and we want to tell people so they’re more proactive about preventing future crimes and incidents from occurring on campus.”

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Amy Laskowski

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

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