Alert system test successful

At around noon on Nov. 15, Geneseo ran a campus-wide test of the NY-Alert system by sending out messages to students via text messaging, phone calls, e-mail, posted signs and verbal announcements.

The results of the test were very encouraging, reported Director of Computing Information and Technology Sue Chichester. Of the 694 students, staff or faculty members who filled out a feedback survey, only eight did not receive the test message in any form.

Over half of respondents reported receiving an e-mail or phone call, and the largest percentage of respondents felt that a text message would be the most effective form of communication.

NY-Alert has worked with cell phone providers to make emergency text messages free of charge to recipients.

"We didn't know what to expect," Director of Environmental Health and Safety Chuck Reyes said about the test. One problem Reyes and Chichester found during the test was that if more than one person had registered a phone number, such as a department line, that phone received multiple messages.

Chichester also said that the phone system could have handled a higher volume of phone calls than it did on the day of the test, meaning the calls could theoretically be made faster. Another problem some students and faculty encountered was the notification e-mail being identified as spam by their e-mail servers.

Chichester was pleased with the success of the test, noting that "in a real emergency, word of mouth kicks in" and can reach the 1 percent of students who do not otherwise receive the message.

She said her biggest concern was the fact that many students, staff, and faculty are not yet registered for notifications. At the time of the test, only 69 percent of students and 38 percent of faculty and staff have registered.

"It's not going to be used," she stressed, "except for true emergencies."

Students can still register for NY-Alert through KnightWeb, even if they have previously declined the invitation to do so. Staff and faculty can register through the SUNY Portal on the Geneseo Web site.