Sillimanders test emergency alert system

This past weekend, students in Silliman College received phone calls and text messages from an unusual sender — the Yale University ALERT system.

At 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Silliman became the first residential college to test a new emergency communication system — announced last week — that is designed to alert all members of the University community in case of a large-scale emergency.

Silliman College Master Judith Krauss said the test was largely a success, but that the system can still be improved.

“The test run was very successful both because it did reach a lot of people but also because it uncovered bugs in the system which could then be immediately addressed,” she said in an e-mail.

One of the shortfalls of the system is that the information accessible to Student Information Services is only as accurate as what the students provide, Krauss said.

Silliman students interviewed said they received the phone call, text message and e-mail alerts — the three methods on which the new system relies.

In an e-mail to Silliman students prior to the test, Krauss said officials at the University’s Security Programs and Information Technology Services would send the messages from the dining hall and then stay there to troubleshoot if necessary.

Silliman resident Stafford Palmieri ’08 said she had forgotten about the upcoming emergency test and did not recognize the number on her Caller ID when she received the phone call on Friday.

“I answered the phone to hear a very calm woman’s voice informing me of the emergency test,” Palmieri said.

Krauss said April’s shootings at Virginia Tech University underscored the need for a more effective emergency notification system, but she said the University can also put the system to other uses.

“The system could also be useful in the event of a pandemic flu situation, fires or explosions or other dangerous situations where it would be critical to caution people away from a specific part of campus,” Krauss said in the e-mail.

Several Silliman students said they felt comforted by the presence of the emergency system.

“It’s good to know that the system is there, and it seems like an efficient system,” Bill Dockendorf ’11 said. “It seems to be a worthwhile development in protection technology.”

Other Silliman students said the test has not been a major topic of conversation among Silliman students since it took place.

Before it unveiled the new system, the University relied upon an alert system that sent automated message to all University landline phones.

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