Initial Reports Say Thursday's Emergency Test Largely Successful

November 20, 2008

November 20, 2008 — Preliminary reports show that Thursday afternoon's test of the University of Virginia's emergency alert system — the first since taking control of a siren and public address system from the vendor — was largely a success, said Marge Sidebottom, director of emergency preparedness.

The sirens and public address system activated instantly, she said. The first recipients of test messages were the bearers of hospital pagers, followed seconds later by those who had signed up to receive text-message alerts on mobile devices.

A message was posted on the University's home page shortly thereafter. Those who signed up for "UVaAlerts" e-mails appeared to receive their notifications in good time, she said.

There were a few glitches, Sidebottom said. "If you do a test and you identify something that needs a little work, that's good."

The mass e-mail notifications sent to all members of the University community failed on the first attempt. An error message appeared in the dispatch center about 10 minutes after hitting the send button.

Dispatchers followed correct procedure after receiving the error code, and Sidebottom opted to resend the message, as she likely would in the event of a real emergency. The second sending went without a hitch, she said.

The Office of Information Technology and Communications is looking into the failure of the initial e-mail.

There were also reports that the signals from the sirens and public address systems at Klockner Stadium, and perhaps the John Paul Jones Arena, were intermittent. Those also will be checked, Sidebottom said.

The next systemwide test will likely take place in late January, she said.