Street Team: Emergency Notification System (ENS)

The winds started picking up and everyone knew it was coming. Superstorm Sandy, one of the costliest storms to ever hit the United States, was scheduled to hit Philadelphia on October 29th. Pennsylvania was in a state of emergency and Philadelphia had shut down its public transportation system.  Everyone on SJU’s campus was preparing for the storm but as Sandy hit, members of campus began to realize that our methods for communicating emergencies were lacking. The existing system served its purpose, but it could be better and reach more people.  At the time, the Emergency Notification System (ENS) was used to communicate via text and email.  In the case of an emergency, we wanted to be able to reach as many people as possible, as efficiently as possible.

The Office of Information Technology (OIT), including User Services, Media Services, Web Services, Project Management, and Telecommunications, created an updated version of ENS to better notify students, faculty, and staff in the event of an emergency. The yearlong project has been a collaboration among a number of departments on campus.  OIT’s charge was to hear from various SJU constituents what they’d like to see in the ENS and build the technology.

The first phase of the new ENS project was modifying the system so emergency communication was extended to encompass text messages, email, RSS feed (on MySJU, sju.edu’s campus status page, notification bar and the campus TV system), as well as the University’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.  Because we are aware that most people are plugged into some form of technology most of the time, we wanted to reach SJU employees and students through their mobile devices. The pictures below show what you would see displayed on www.sju.edu and the university’s status page in the event of an emergency:

statuspagealert

campusalert

Procedures were also simplified and clarified during this update to the ENS.  A select group of people are designated to determine the message and communication channels if and when there is an emergency on campus. These administrators then fill out a form to identify the emergency and check off what form of communication to use. This form is then sent to an alias in The Office of Public Safety and Security.  Public Safety will then sends out the outage or emergency notification to communicate the issue with the rest of campus. There are monthly tests of the system in order to test its effectiveness and key employees are routinely trained. Just last week, the emergency notification system was utilized to inform students of the Philadelphia water main break. In the future, there may be more updates to the system, but for now, it covers everything imaginable.

So, while the few emails and texts you get may be annoying at the time, you can be assured of your safety knowing our campus will be ready in case of an emergency.