New BU Alert System Includes App for Quicker Communications during Emergencies
Three questions for Rene Fielding, University emergency management director
The University has a new BU Alert, the text/cell phone/email advisory system for campus emergencies, complete with a new app. The app will allow for quicker and more accessible communications to students, faculty, and staff.
Introduced in May and publicized this month—the start of the academic year and the federally designated National Preparedness Month—the new system replaces a decade-old technology that had several foibles, BU emergency leaders say. Those flaws included out-of-date information for some recipients of the University’s emergency alerts, the inability to send consecutive messages in a timely way, and pokey manual processes.
BU Alert sends messages during active campus threats, weather closures of facilities, utility outages, and other breaking and emergent events.
BU Today asked Rene Fielding, the University’s emergency management director, to walk us through the changes.
with Rene Fielding
BU Today: In layperson’s terms, what is the new system? Will BU affiliates experience the alerts in a different way than they have in the past?
Fielding: The new system allows a couple of new functionalities that we did not previously have. First, we have the ability to send push notifications [clickable pop-up messages that appear regardless of the device or browser being used] to students, staff, and faculty that download the [Alert] app. This allows for another mode of communication during an emergency.
Second, the system has been configured to be much easier for the message sender to select a message and to send. This allows for more timely communication and more consistency in the message and language. Third, we were able to brand the templates so they have the look and feel of messages from BU.
The system has been configured to be much easier for the message sender to select a message and to send. This allows for more timely communication and more consistency in the message and language.
BU Today: How will this improve campus safety?
We have a new system, not an update [of the old one]. The new system does allow us to communicate more quickly with our entire community with added modalities, in the form of the app.
BU Today: The new system actually was implemented in May. Should students, faculty, and staff update their contact information for the new system, either in BUworks or the Student Information System?
Yes, the system went live in May and June after many of the students left for the summer. We wanted to wait to promote the new system until everyone returned back for the fall, and get them to update their contact info and download the app if they are interested in getting push notifications.