University to offer new, improved emergency alert system by end of month

Maria Britos/Staff Writer

Students, faculty and staff received an alert text message from the University-Wide Test FIU Alert on Oct. 31 as part of the new updated emergency notification system operated by FIU Alert.

As part of the new update, the system will “allow for the integration of the separate communication platforms to allow for a more efficient, faster and automated activation,” according to Amy Aiken, director of the Department of Emergency Management.

The testing period will last about two weeks and is scheduled to be fully activated by the end of November 2013.

“It’s the first time I get this type of notification,” said Roberta Duarte, a freshmen Hospitality major. “I hope it works well when there is actually an emergency.”

Apart from the text message alerts, FIU Alert will include notifications via the FIU email, social media such as Twitter and Facebook through the official University accounts, voice calls to subscribed users, outdoor speakers that will be played throughout campus, FIU Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) Phones that will play the emergency message through its speakers and all Emergency call boxes around every campus.

After the first set of testing, the Department of Emergency Management has seen significant amount of improvement, especially with a faster performance of the text messages.

“The ability to activate all the different communication platforms from a single system makes the system much easier to activate during an emergency situation and the recent test proved the system could accomplish the task,” said Aikens.

According to the online survey available after the first testing phase, out of 3,195 respondents; only 3 percent did not receive an alert, but 81 percent received alerts within 5 minutes of it being sent and 92 percent were notified within 30 minutes.

“I like the whole texting alert system because if there’s an emergency I will be able to know right away,” said Hugo Mujica, junior biology major.

With the recent increase of crimes such as the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary and the Colorado movie theater:

[pullquote]“These types of emergency situations is what necessitates the system to be more flexible and as fast as possible in warning the FIU community,” said Aikens.[/pullquote]

The update has been a developing project since the summer of 2012 through a strategic initiative requested to the University leadership. Future plans, according to Aikens, are underway and will include new mediums of notification to be added in a near future. Such include ticker on University cable TV and even alerts to personal computers.

For the notification alerts to function properly and to reach to the entire University community, everyone is encouraged to sign up through the Department of Emergency Management’s website and stay connected via social media, email and the FIU main website. Although individuals have an option to opt out of the alert system, FIU Alert highly recommends to remain subscribed to the system.

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