University considers ALERT test a success

Nearly 10,000 phones on campus rang in harmony Wednesday as the University tested its new emergency notification system.

Undergraduate, graduate and professional school students received e-mails, phone calls and text messages in a campus-wide test of Yale ALERT, an emergency notification system first announced last month. Out of the 10,062 voice messages sent by University officials, 98 percent were delivered successfully, Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith said.

Most students interviewed for this story reported receiving the warnings on time. The success rate is an encouraging sign for the University as it continues to fine-tune its emergency-response protocol, Highsmith said.

“To deliver almost 10,000 messages in such a short time frame is really quite remarkable,” she said.

The wave of messages, which began at 5:18 p.m., did not reach 192 phone numbers, Highsmith said. Automated phone calls were not successfully completed because of incorrect phone numbers in the University database, busy signals or unanswered calls on phones without a voicemail system, she said.

Of the eight students interviewed for this story, six students said they received the voice message and text message within minutes of 5:18.

One student said he received his phone call on time but did not receive the text message until 11:30 p.m. Another said his cell phone, whose number is listed as his emergency contact information, is broken, so he did not receive the messages.

Highsmith said calls also could not be completed to fax and modem numbers that were provided instead of phone numbers as emergency contact numbers.

Statistics on text message deliveries were not available in the preliminary statistical report, but the University will have that information within a week, Highsmith said.

Once the University receives full performance statistics of the test, Highsmith said, she expects to find that the “vast majority” of voice messages were delivered within the first 10 minutes.

Most students interviewed said they think the system is a helpful precaution.

“It’s really not a hassle just to get a text message on your phone,” John-Michael Parker ’10 said. “I don’t know how long it took, but if it’s a quick system, then it’s definitely a useful thing.”

Portia Sirinek ’10 said she is still not sure for what purposes the University will use the new system.

Highsmith previously told the News when the system was first announced last month that Yale ALERT would be used only in serious, life-threatening and urgent situations.

Princeton University — which like Yale, uses the Connect-Ed notification service provided by the California-based NTI Group — implemented its Princeton Telephone and E-mail Notification System earlier this year. The university has since tested the protocol twice, according to an Oct. 22 press release.

The second test of PTENS on Oct. 19 had an 87 percent message-delivery rate, according to press release.

Highsmith said Yale had a high rate of successful deliveries because the University required undergraduates to provide emergency phone contacts while registering for classes this semester. Most schools make providing such information optional, she said.

“We have gotten excellent cooperation from the community in providing accurate phone numbers,” Highsmith said.

Highsmith said the University plans to test Yale ALERT twice a year to ensure that the system remains functional.

Yale faculty and staff, who were not included in Wednesday’s message blast, will be the next group to receive Yale ALERT test messages. Silliman College students, who received test messages in a separate Silliman College test on Nov. 2, were not included in Wednesday’s test.

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