A smart system for emergencies

Staff to get new options for expanded notification

January 9, 2012 | NCAR and UCAR staff will soon be able to get notices of weather closures, power outages, and other short-fuse emergency situations via text message on their cell phones. That's one of several notification modes made possible by a new emergency notification system acquired and managed by Safety and Site Services, which is part of UCAR Finance & Administration (F&A).

ENS group
(clockwise from left) Mason Harris (F&A), Paul Dial (CISL/NETS), Steve Sadler (F&A), and Rachael Drummond (Communications) have been working on implementation of a new emergency notification system that will deliver messages in a variety of emergency situations to staff members who opt in. (©UCAR, Photo by Carlye Calvin.)

The new system “allows you to mass communicate through many different channels to all staff or to a pre-selected group responsible for managing the initial phases of an emergency,” says Mason Harris a business analyst in F&A. Mason worked closely with Safety and Site Services director Steve Sadler in specifying and acquiring the system.

The emergency notification system (ENS) is expected to be operational for all staff in the next month or two, when testing and training are complete. It will provide a valuable fallback to all-staff emails and phone messages, especially if UCAR’s email and/or phone communications are compromised.

Staff who opt to participate can provide one or more desired modes of contact, such as a cell phone number or home email address. The data will be entered into the cloud-based ENS.

Not only can the system deliver alerts to the technologies you choose, it can also recognize when you’ve read or listened to a message, then “turn off” for that message so that you’re not pinged multiple times through different modes. “It’s a really smart system that allows for a lot of customization,” says Steve.

Ample text alert
Receiving an alert message on your mobile phone will be one option available as part of the new UCAR-wide emergency notification system.

“When you have a dispersed work force like ours, a system like this is really helpful,” Steve adds. “It’s the norm in the university world. In fact, many businesses are lagging behind universities.”

Staff required by work circumstances to be on call will be some of the first adopters of the system. For everyone else, participation in the ENS is entirely voluntary: no one will be required to provide non-work contact information. The system will be used only for actual emergencies plus occasional tests.

The ENS provider, Everbridge, was chosen from among seven candidate vendors after a thorough evaluation that involved staff from F&A, CISL, Communications, and IT. “We went through a very rigorous selection process,” says Steve.

Tests of the new system began on January 2, and SaSS expects it to be fully operational sometime this month or next.