Stay in touch with the Emergency Notification System

With Thanksgiving only a day away, the timing could have been better last fall for the early morning call to OSU Public Safety regarding a strange smell permeating Langton Hall.

A trooper responding to the scene summoned the Corvallis Fire Department, which dispatched fire trucks moments later. They sped to Langton, finding smoke billowing from basement windows. Soon thereafter, data service and telephone systems was reported out at a handful of buildings – a list that quickly grew as the cold November morning unfolded.

By 8:30 a.m., OSU emergency managers began to push out messages regarding the incident through the university’s Emergency Notification Service, letting individuals know that work and classes were cancelled for the day in 12 buildings. By 10:30, the notice was expanded to all of campus.

But some faculty and staff who had chosen university land lines or OSU e-mail addresses as their primary means of receiving information through the ENS subsequently reported that they didn’t receive the initial incident notice until after they got the message that campus was closing. The reason: The fire had interrupted data and phone service in some buildings, and as systems came back up, the closure message got through first.

Public Safety officials say that’s one important reason why ENS users – all faculty, staff and students with ONID accounts – need to log in to the system, and take advantage of the opportunity to specify a mobile phone and/or text message address as their preferred means of communication.  Such systems are not connected to OSU phone or data services, and are able to receive messages even when campus systems are downs. Now is a perfect time to do that: OSU emergency management officials and law enforcement will conduct a routine test of the ENS on Tuesday morning (Feb. 15), at 11 a.m., providing a chance to ensure that in the event of an emergency, each individual will be able to receive messages as he or she prefers.

To access your record, visit alert.oregonstate.edu, and plug in your ONID e-mail address and university ID number. Powered by Blackboard ConnectEd, the ENS allows users to input as many as six telephone numbers, two e-mail addresses and a text number – nine contact points in all. It also allows each user to specify one of the six numbers as “primary” and to receive text messages. The system’s redundancy allows users to include contact points for individuals who have a close relationship to the user – a student’s parents, for instance, or a faculty member’s spouse.

OSU Network Services officials report a difference in the way that faculty/staff and students user the system. Students, raised in the era of wireless communications, tend to specify mobile phones as primary contact points and ask for text messages, while faculty/staff often maintain university landlines as primary and don’t provide a text-message number.

University landlines are easily overwhelmed in the event of a campus-wide ENS notification, officials say. The university phone system can accept a limited number of calls at any given moment, meaning emergency phone messages are delivered over time, with some not reaching users for 30 minutes, an hour or even longer. In the event of an emergency requiring immediate action from those on campus, such delays would prove dangerous.

Visit alert.oregonstate.edu today, and make sure you’re in touch in the event of any emergency issue affecting campus.

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