Portland State employed the first large-scale usage of the new PSU Alert system on May 6 after an unknown individual warned that a bomb would detonate at noon in the Branford P. Millar Library. The library closed, but at noon, nothing happened. Those working on the first implementation of PSU Alert said the empty threat provided for a convenient test of the system, and the experience will now be used to help make improvements.
Portland State employed the first large-scale usage of the new PSU Alert system on May 6 after an unknown individual warned that a bomb would detonate at noon in the Branford P. Millar Library.
The library closed, but at noon, nothing happened. Those working on the first implementation of PSU Alert said the empty threat provided for a convenient test of the system, and the experience will now be used to help make improvements.
So how did the new system fare?
Director of Campus Safety Mike Soto said feedback is still coming in and being analyzed by the Emergency Management Unit, which deals with all emergency situations at PSU.
Some students said they did not receive their message until after noon. Student Tina Dippert said she received a voicemail while she was eating lunch at “around 12:30 or so.”
Zach Wilson, a mathematics graduate student, said a friend of his got an alert text message around 1 p.m., while he got a cell phone voicemail at approximately 2 p.m. “I assume it takes awhile to inform so many people,” he said.
Kirsten Newbury, co-project manager for the first phase of PSU Alert in the Office of Information Technologies, said one thing her office observed was that the mass number of alert e-mails sent to the Web mail accounts initially flooded the server, causing a backup of those messages.
Now that OIT is aware of the issue, Newbury said, servers will be opened up for the alert system for next time.
The alert system relays information from the university administration to faculty, staff and students four ways: through a phone call, by text message, over e-mail or via pager. People who have not already signed up to receive alerts can do so through their Banweb account.
The system, which is operated by the California-based company 3n (National Notification Network), went live on March 31 and, according to Scott Gallagher, director of PSU communications, costs the university $30,000 per year.
“We’ve always had some way of communicating during emergencies,” Soto said, adding that PSU Alert just adds one more way to get the word out.
The administration is currently trying to make it easier for people sign up for the notifications and alter their contact information online through Banweb. Currently, students, facultyand staff must go to the OIT help desk or the Campus Safety office to change a phone number or an e-mail address.
People began signing up for PSU alert on March 31, and the most recent numbers indicate that 13,129 students, staff and faculty have opted-in so far. Soto said 97 percent of people with Banweb accounts have signed into their accounts since the PSU Alert went live, while 30 percent to 35 percent of the those people have opted-in to the alert system.
Some people are simply not aware of PSU Alert, while others, such as student Elda Hernandez, chose to not sign up for the program.
Hernandez said that if something important happens, she figures she will find out about it through other means. “I didn’t want them texting me,” she said.
Hernandez said she thinks an e-mail would be of little benefit.
“I wasn’t going to be around my computer all the time,” Hernandez said.
Dr. Randy Blazak, a sociology professor and chair of the General Student Affairs Committee, said he plans to suggest changes to the general syllabus rule of having students put their cell phone on silent while in class.
The General Student Affairs Committee will be holding a forum on May 22 at 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Smith Memorial Student Union, room 228 to discuss campus safety. Dr. Blazak said that although the forum’s fliers address faculty, students are welcome to attend.