Emergency Notification System to alert campus during crisis

Carleton is adopting a new cutting-edge emergency notification system that will alert campus in case of an emergency — the most comprehensive at any Canadian university.

“We’re doing things differently than other universities,” says Ralph Michaelis, chief information officer for Computing and Communications Services (CCS). “I think we’ve got a strategy that has a better chance of success.”

Carleton’s Emergency Notification System is based on tiered approach — a desktop alert, a text message to cellphones and an email. By adopting this type of system, the university has an increased chance of reaching a larger part of the Carleton community in the event of an emergency.

“No other Canadian university has the capability to lock down a computer using an integrated mass notification solution like Carleton is deploying,” says Richard Lefebvre of CCS, who is overseeing the ENS project.

In the coming weeks, the ENS software will be linked to all computers on the main campus network (CUNET) — there are about 4,000 of these computers located across campus in offices and electronic classrooms. When the Department of University Safety (DUS) issues an alert, all computers that are logged onto CUNET will be locked down which disables your keyboard and mouse. A message will appear on the screen with directions about what action people should take.

Once DUS removes the alert, computers will return to normal operation.

After the first phase of the system is up and running, CCS will expand capability to all computers on campus, including student residences and laptops.

“We want to get this right because it will provide a very critical service during a time of crisis, and it’s a service that cannot fail,” adds Lefebvre. “Our strategy is to start with a manageable scope and then build on this scope over time.”

A key component of the launch is to get as many students, staff and faculty as possible to register their cellphone numbers on Carleton Central, so they can receive instant text messages in the event of an emergency.

Len Boudreault, director of campus safety, says registering your phone could ultimately save your life, since a text message would be sent to everyone within minutes of a crisis.

He stresses that a text message will only be sent in the case of an emergency and the university will pay for them.

“Texting is the most acceptable to young people because they text quite often,” says Boudreault. “[But] it’s big trust issue. We are asking you to trust us that you won’t get spammed.”

Safety has prepared messages for different scenarios, including a major fire, an armed intruder on campus and an evacuation.

The planning for the Emergency Notification System began about two years ago as part of an ongoing effort to address safety issues on campus. Since then, Carleton has spent $1.6 million on additional security such as extra lights, emergency phones and campus safety officers.

“If an incident happens on campus, you want to know,” Boudreault says. “It’s your own personal safety. And we’re supplying you this vehicle, this tool, to increase your level of personal safety on campus.”

As an incentive to encourage everyone to register their cellphone numbers, the university is offering six $500 cash prizes to those who register by September 23, two days before DUS will conduct the first campus-wide test of the system.

Students, faculty, and staff can easily register their cellphone numbers at https://central.carleton.ca or access the Carleton Central tab within the MyCarleton university portal.

The university plans to have two test messages every year, one in September and again in January.

A new website — http://carleton.ca/DUC/crisis_communications/ — has also been created to provide ongoing updates in the case of an emergency.

The university unveiled the system at a press conference held Aug. 27.

This entry was written by Kristy Strauss and posted in the issue. Tags applied to this article are: , , . Leave a comment, bookmark the permalink or share the following short URL for this article via social media: http://carletonnow.carleton.ca/?p=709

Kristy Strauss

By Kristy Strauss

Kristy Strauss graduated from Carleton's journalism program in 2009. She is a regular contributor to Carleton Now. She has worked as a reporter for the Kemptville Advance. She currently reports for EMC Ottawa South.

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