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BU Alert System to Be Tested Today

Mandated test for system that’s gotten lots of use this fall


BU’s Emergency Alert System will undergo its annual federally mandated test today after working overtime in the last few weeks with updates on Hurricane Sandy and a fall spree of robberies near the Charles River Campus.

The system, which sends information during emergencies to students and staff via cell phones, landlines, University email addresses, and pagers, will transmit a test-related message today at 10:50 a.m. to all registered users. Real-life usage, even as recent as that for Sandy last week, isn’t allowed to substitute for the test, says Stephen Morash, director of emergency response planning.

The test will also evaluate web page banners on the University’s home page, BU Today, and the BU Emergency Management website. The University adopted the system in 2008 to handle crimes, severe weather, and other incidents that might disrupt operations.

Little more than one-quarter of faculty and staff have registered their cell phone numbers with the system, says Morash. University officials urge those who haven’t registered to do so via the Employee Link. Students must register their phones with the system to receive class registration permission; they can update their information at the Student Link.

During a town hall meeting last month on the fall robberies, some students complained that they lagged behind their peers in receiving alerts or that the messages came in several consecutive chunks. The former situation is a result of having to reach almost 50,000 people, officials said at the meeting. The latter occurs because some cell phones and pagers have small screens that can receive only parts of a message at once.

The test is part of the University’s emergency preparations, which include annual drills and publishing its alert test procedures.

Rich Barlow

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

2 Comments on BU Alert System to Be Tested Today

  • Nathan on 11.09.2012 at 11:02 am

    10:54 – Cell call
    10:57 – Desk call,
    10:57 – Cell text,
    10:58 – BU email
    – your results may have varied :)

  • AP on 11.09.2012 at 11:14 am

    The reason most of the staff haven’t signed up for the alerts is that they are not efficient. Most of these alerts result in 4-5 out-of-network texts that cost extra, and some alerts are sent twice in a row. (The alerts regarding the muggings alone cost us $5.)

    Also, a lot of these alerts are misused. The alerts should be restricted to information where I can change my immediate action to protect myself. “Campus is opening late,” I can act upon that. Waking me up at 4 am with a barrage of texts because “Someone was mugged two days ago,” I can’t do anything about that from my bed. Meanwhile, last summer the Android “Emergency Alert” app went off squawking on everyone’s phones at work because of a tornado warning, yet no one in my area knew the protocol for a tornado at work.

    Because of this, a lot of the staff I work with feel the emergency alerts are an irrelevant nuisance. Overusing the text-alert system causes people to ignore it, and much like the Boy Who Cried Wolf, makes people likely to ignore it when there is a real emergency.

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