University relies on emergency notification system during California wildfires
During October, the southern California wildfires burned half a million acres, including thousands of acres in and around Malibu, destroying businesses and residences directly bordering the Pepperdine campus.
To ensure safety, university officials relied on a mass notification system provided by Glendale, Calif.-based 3n (National Notification Network) LLC.
Called InstaCom Campus Alert, the system was used to help relocate faculty and staff to designated shelters on the Malibu campus, as well as coordinate efforts to prevent the loss of life and property.
Pepperdine University initially decided to acquire the system earlier this year to further strengthen emergency preparedness on campus. The system was rolled out with the 2007 fall semester, and initial testing was completed in time to address the emergency created by the Malibu fires.
The notification system enabled university officials to communicate with students, staff and faculty in minutes via a number of contact methods–including native SMS text messaging, almost any voice-enabled device such as cell phones and landlines, instant messaging, pagers, faxes and more–greatly increasing the likelihood that messages would be delivered and received in a timely manner.
Using the system, university officials sent out five notifications during the first day of the fires. Two of the messages included instructions to students and faculty to relocate from dorms and classrooms and proceed to safe areas on campus. Faculty, staff and students not on campus were urged, at the recommendation of Los Angeles County fire officials, not to return to campus until the roads leading to the Malibu campus were opened and deemed safe for travel.
Pepperdine officials sent out two more messages providing status updates of the fires, urging the population to remain in designated safe areas and asking them to stay calm. A final message was sent out to officially close classes the next day.
“The student body is pleased with how Pepperdine has handled the Malibu Canyon fires, including how it used the new 3n notification system,” said Andy Conales, Pepperdine’s student government president. “Pepperdine contacted everyone quickly, relayed all the important information we needed and kept everyone informed as to what to do and where to go. In the end, Pepperdine kept everyone safe during a very dangerous, large-scale natural disaster.”
Pepperdine’s communications solution was based on the Campus Alert system, made by Federal Signal Corp., headquartered in University Park, Ill.
Campus Alert provides an indoor-outdoor notification system to alert and direct individuals in the event of an emergency. Components include warning speakers and strobe lights to alert students and faculty who are in harms way.
In addition, text messages can be sent to every cell phone, pager, e-mail address and computer in a university’s network. These messages can be delivered to thousands of students, faculty and parents within seconds. Digitally encrypted safeguards prevent false messages.
For more information about Campus Alert, visit http://www.federalwarningsystems.com/.