Wesleyan Tests New Emergency Notification System
In the event of catastrophic weather, accidents
that threaten the campus or other life-threatening situations, Wesleyan has
furthered its capabilities to inform the campus community quickly and
A recently-implemented Emergency Preparedness Notification System was tested
university-wide on Oct. 10. The emergency notification system alerts
students, parents, faculty and staff of serious campus-wide emergencies.
“If Wesleyan has an extended power outage, an incident requiring mass
evacuation, or possibly a hostage situation, we will use this system to
quickly notify the Wesleyan community,” says Cliff Ashton, director of
Physical Plant and chairperson of Wesleyan’s Business Continuity Committee.
Wesleyan has had an emergency preparedness plan prior to 2000, but the new,
expanded system includes considerations for long term recovery and on-going
business continuity for the university following a major emergency. As a
result, the Business Continuity Committee developed the Emergency
Preparedness Notification System.
“The need for an expansion in the plan’s scope became apparent to colleges
across the U.S. following hurricane Katrina in New Orleans where operations
for several universities came to a halt for extended periods, severely
challenging the on going viability of those institutions,” Ashton explains.
Wesleyan began implementing the new system in March of 2007. This
notification system contacts regular phones, cell phones and e-mail
addresses through a Web-based system provided by Connect-Ed. This system is
designed specifically for electronic messaging at colleges and universities.
The system notification occurs by voice message to regular telephones or
cell phones that students, faculty, and staff identify in the emergency
contact listing in their portfolio. Consequently, once someone have been
informed of an emergency through e-mail, home phone or cell phone.
Employee’s voice mail box will serve as a secondary source of information.
“We needed a way to get campus-wide electronic emergency messages out
quickly and reliably,” explains Steve Machuga, director of administrative
systems and member of the Business Continuity Committee.
Machuga says the new system is still undergoing some inherent technical and
human difficulties with trying contact 4,000 students, staff, faculty and
parents as simultaneously as possible. The test on Oct. 10 revealed some
problems, such as getting messages past spam filters and simplifying the
e-mail format. Machuga and his colleagues are currently addressing these
“We’ve gotten a lot of good information and encouragement through the
Emergency Notification Confirmation, which we requested, and we’ve
responding to all of them,” Machuga says. “We are moving forward because
this is very important for the Wesleyan community.”
The possibility of adding text messaging to the system is being
investigated, and additional protocol for the types of notifications that
will be sent through the system is under consideration.
In order for the system to work, students, their parents and Wesleyan staff
and faculty must update their contact information.
Students can update their phone numbers and their parents' phone numbers by
visiting the Enrollment, Hold & Addresses link in the student portfolio or
by navigating to the following
Faculty and staff can update their campus-wide emergency numbers through the
Personal Profile link in the electronic portfolio or using the following
Graduate students can update their phone numbers and e-mail addresses by
visiting Enrollment, Holds and Addresses under my Enrollment status in your
portfolio or by using the following link
Graduate Liberal Studies Program students can update their phone numbers by
visiting the "Address Verification Tab" of the "GLSP On-Line Registration"
in your portfolio or by using the following link
The Business Continuity Committee has also proposed low-tech options such as
using Public Safety officers and their vehicles or limited public
announcement systems to alert people of emergencies.
The following members of the Business Continuity Committee helped implement
the new system: Ashton, Machuga, Anna van der Burg, registrar; Camille
Dolansky, associate director of Parent Programs; Eloise Glick, faculty
resource specialist; Justin Harmon, vice president for Public Affairs; Fran
Koerting, director of Residential Life; David Meyer, director of Public
Safety; David Pesci, director of Media Relations, and Dan Pflederer, human
resources management systems functional specialist; Ganesan Ravishanker,
associate vice president for Information Technology Services; and Mike
Whaley, dean of student services and interim dean of the college.
The committee plans to test the system at regular intervals. Staff will also
routinely review Wesleyan’s preparedness procedures to ensure that the
university maintains the safest possible campus.
A team of staff members is also currently updating Wesleyan's emergency
response plan in order to comprehend more recent threats, such as the
possibility of a pandemic contagion, and to ensure consistency with
protocols established in the National Incident Management System created by
the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This same team recently conducted
a training drill implementing Wesleyan’s plan in conjunction with the City
of Middletown police, fire, and health departments.
By Olivia Bartlett, Wesleyan Connection editor