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Monday's test of university's Emergency Notification System a success


BLACKSBURG, Va., Dec. 9, 2008 – Preliminary review of Monday's test of the Virginia Tech Emergency Notification System indicates that all four communications channels -- the university's broadcast e-mail system, the emergency notification version of the university homepage, VT Alerts, and the electronic message boards in general assignment classrooms -- performed as expected.

This additional test was conducted after the university utilized the system Nov. 13 during the Pritchard Hall incident and discovered that the VT Alerts component of the Emergency Notification System failed to work due to computer malfunctions at 3n, the company that maintains that service.

Shortly after Monday’s test, 3n confirmed that all 35,000 subscribers to VT Alerts did receive their message or messages, which include SMS (text) messages to mobile devices, calls to home, office, or mobile phone numbers, and e-mails to non-Virginia Tech addresses.

A post Emergency Notification System test survey sent hours after the test was sent to all university students, faculty, and staff; 6,279 people responded. Of those who replied, 6,156 (98 percent) indicated they had heard or received at least one test message. In addition, 5,268 (84 percent) indicated that they had received a message within the first 10 minutes of the test which began at 1:36 p.m.

Of those surveyed, 49 percent indicated they received a text message first; 18 percent reported receiving a university (@vt.edu) e-mail first, 18 percent say they received a phone message first, 11 percent heard and saw an electronic message board first; 1 percent received an e-mail to their non-university provider first, and 1 percent learned of the test message via word of mouth.

In total, 88 percent reported they received a university e-mail; 66 percent said they received a text message; 34 percent received a phone message; 12 percent said they saw the classroom electronic message board; 9 percent received an e-mail to a non university account; and 2 percent saw it posted to the university homepage. In addition, 7 percent heard about the test by word of mouth.

“Yesterday’s test confirms again the importance of a multi-channel, multi-media emergency notification system,” said Larry Hincker, associate vice president for university relations. “Virginia Tech is like a small city — people can be in all sorts of places doing all sorts of things when an emergency occurs. You have to send information via many platforms in order to reach you community quickly because people will receive the information in different ways depending on where they are and what they are doing.”

Virginia Tech continues to work with 3n to ensure that their system problem will not happen again. In addition, administrators in the university’s information technology and administrative services divisions continue to test and seek ways to improve university controlled notification systems.