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BU Alert System Test Set for Today

Annual trial of campus-wide emergency system


A federally mandated test of the BU Alert System is scheduled for tomorrow, Thursday, October 17. 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 at 10:50 a.m. to all registered users. The message will also be posted on the BU homepage, on BU Today, and on the BU Emergency Management website.

The test is part of the University’s emergency preparations, which include annual drills and publishing its alert test procedures. In the past, BU alerts have been sent to warn members of the BU community about recent crimes, announce school closings because of severe weather, and provide critical information about the Boston Marathon bombings last April.

Only 40 percent of faculty and staff have registered their mobile phone numbers with the BU Alert System, says BU Police Chief Thomas Robbins. He urges those who have not yet registered to do so. It’s easy. Just go to the BU Works link. Log in, click on the Employee Self-Service tab, then the personal information tab, and proceed to the BU Alert information tab. Failure to register means you could miss important notifications.

Students must register their phones to be able to register for classes; they can update their information at the Student Link.

During a town hall meeting last October following a string of armed robberies near the Charles River Campus, some students complained that they weren’t receiving the alerts as quickly as others and that the messages came in chunks, making them difficult to read. Officials explained that the time gap is a downside of a system that has to reach almost 50,000 people, and that the reason some people receive messages in stages is because some cell phones have small screens that can receive only parts of a message at once.

Tomorrow’s test of the BU Alert System coincides with the Great Shake Out, a nationwide event that urges schools and organizations worldwide to practice earthquake preparedness drills in case of an earthquake. The University will run through its own earthquake preparedness exercises over the coming weeks, says Stephen Morash, BU’s director of emergency response planning.

Morash will lead a tabletop exercise where University officials will prepare a run-through of procedures on the Charles River Campus and the Medical Campus and at the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories in the event of an earthquake. He has dubbed the University’s earthquake plan Operation Cerberus, after the three-headed dog that guards the gates of the underworld in Greek mythology.

Although people don’t associate earthquakes with New England, the fault line is active, as proven by the 4.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Maine last October, with tremors felt as far south as Connecticut.

Amy Laskowski

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

2 Comments on BU Alert System Test Set for Today

  • Bob Grady on 10.16.2013 at 10:27 am

    Could you please explain what a tabletop exercise is?

    • Dan Wieland on 10.16.2013 at 1:04 pm

      A tabletop exercise is where participants representing various agencies or departments are given a scenario and must talk through their response to that scenario as a group. This is different from a functional or full-scale exercise which requires participants to act out a response (such as deploying personnel, staging equipment, etc.).

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