Public Safety tests emergency message system

Maria Martinez

CSUN’s Department of Public Safety conducted a test of their mass emergency notification system on Monday, Nov. 19.

This test-run of the system, aimed at contacting students through voice, e-mail and text messages, was first conducted with faculty and staff earlier this semester.

“This was a mammoth test,” Chief of Police and Director of Public Safety at CSUN Anne P. Glavin said.

Depending on how current and up-to-date their contact information is on the CSUN Web Portal, students received e-mails and phone calls with a recorded voice message from Kit Espinosa, emergency preparedness coordinator for the department of public safety.

Eighteen-year-old Lynnea Waters, an English major, said she received a call and an e-mail.

“It was relatively effective,” Waters said.

Waters plans on adding more numbers to her contact information list so that out-of-state family members can receive the important notifications as well.

In case of an emergency such as earthquakes, fires, or any other critical disaster, students, faculty and staff can be contacted through their home phones, cell phones, e-mail, text messages, or through all four.

Since the Virginia Tech massacre earlier this year, there has been even more concern about campus communities receiving time-sensitive information during unforeseen events and emergencies.

“We?have been planning a good preparedness program and robust system long before the Virginia Tech tragedy,” Glavin said.

Students, faculty and staff members can register up to six numbers and two e-mail addresses to be contacted through, and messages will go to all current numbers and addresses that are in the portal.

Espinosa said they can also set up the system so they can contact selective group such as females or males in any kind of specific emergency.

“We have the capacity to control and select certain groups in the system and send informational messages to them, specifically,” Espinosa said.

They can also choose to only send messages to the primary phone number registered or to just the e-mails.

Since all the numbers and e-mail addresses are pulled from the portal, Glavin wants to emphasize that all CSUN community members need to update all their contact information.

“We can do everything that’s reasonable to notify everyone, but if the information isn’t current and up-to-date, then we can’t notify everyone,” Glavin said.

They can’t guarantee they will reach all students, faculty and staff, Glavin said.

There might be some technical issues with people’s phones, but the best thing to do is register as much information as possible so that if one doesn’t work, then another will work. That way there’s more likelihood that everyone will receive critical messages in a timely manner, Glavin said.

“The whole idea is to be able to communicate with the entire community. Virginia Tech accentuated the need to have communications with the community,” Glavin said.

Junior psychology major Vera Fillad said she only received the e-mail message and didn’t know that she could register phone numbers. Fillad said she’ll update all her information on the portal to ensure she receives all the messages in the future.

Due to the several thousand students who received phone messages or missed calls on their cell phones, Espinosa said she received more than 400 calls on Monday.

Some students were just excited that the testing system had worked.

Although most were from students wondering who had called, several calls were also from parents of students who received the call at home.

“Parents inquired about the system and were also appreciative of these tools,” Fillad said.

The mass communication computer-based system, Connect-ED, sends out the message to those registered numbers and e-mail addresses at the same time, but the speed as to when students and faculty receive the message completely depends on their personal carrier.

It’s an enhanced system that calls up automatically, Espinosa said. If there’s no answer on a phone, the system will call back every 15 minutes for up to three times, Fillad said. They also have enhanced SMS (short message service), which can schedule messages to be sent at any time and track delivery to every recipient.

Espinosa said the system is also ADA compliant and TTY compatible.

“We (CSUN) had a one-year pilot to look at it to see what it meant technically and to test the process,” Glavin said.

Now that the first part of the test portion is over, they expect the next trial run, which will be conducted on all students, faculty and staff in December, will go just fine, said Glavin.

Again, all members of the CSUN community will be notified ahead of time as to when the testing will take place.

In cases where the community can’t receive phone calls or e-mails, CSUN also has an outdoor broadcast system aimed at outside of buildings around the campus, where messages can be transmitted.

In September 2005, CSUN had a campus closure due to the Chatsworth fires. Public Safety utilized the old-fashioned method of just talking to people and using a bullhorn to notify students, faculty and staff about the shutdown of the school.