taken from http://www.dailygamecock.com/news/item/3475-carolina-alert-test-largely-successful-but-reveals-problems
Carolina Alert test largely successful, but reveals problems
By Thad Moore & Cassie Cope, News Editors
Faulty wire brings TV crawl system to a stop
Students walking across campus were greeted with the call of a Gamecock Tuesday afternoon, as the university tested its Carolina Alrt emertgency notification system.
Unlike most tests, however, this one was unplanned.
The system is tested twice a year — in the spring and fall, historically at a set time and date — but this week, all that USC police operators knew was to expect a call between Tuesday and Friday.
“In previous semesters, it’s been a planned test, so we have said, ‘Tuesday at 12:20, we will be activating these systems,’” said Cpl. Vinny Bocchino, of USC’s Emergency Management department. “[Having an unplanned test] is very appropriate because emergencies aren’t planned.”
At 3:17 p.m. Tuesday, Provost Michael Amiridis, who also serves as the chairman of the emergency management team, called Bocchino. By 3:18 and 15 seconds, ALERT FM boxes in residence halls, lobbies and elsewhere on campus were activated. A minute and a half later, a message was broadcast over outdoor warning sirens. Finally, about twenty seconds after that, it was sent out by text message, social media, RSS feed and the Carolina Alert website.
When the TV crawl system, which places a scrolling message at the bottom of every station on on-campus cable, was tested, though, nothing happened.
“We’ve kind of looked back today [Wednesday] and revisited what happened there, and it turns out it was a faulty wire,” Bocchino said. “They’ve fixed that, and we’ve actually implemented a routine to test the television message crawler once a week.”
The response time was faster than in the past, Bocchino said, because of upgrades to the system.
“About a year ago, we switched to a new text message and email system, which has greatly, greatly improved the time it takes to actually send the message out,” he said.
Bocchino said 97.5 percent of the 61,013 emails the system sent were successfully received; he said a big improvement in that department was that outdated mailbox.sc.edu addresses, were new email.sc.edu accounts.
Bocchino also said 40,193 cell phones received those text messages Tuesday, 98.4 percent of the 40,831 numbers students, faculty and staff listed on VIP.
“A lot of those [unsuccessful messages] were because people put landline numbers into a cell phone field,” Bocchino said. “Obviously, you can’t send a text message to a landline ... About 50 people put numbers that start with 777, so they put university numbers in that line.”
The text message system has come under criticism in the last few months, as it is reserved only for “situations that pose an immediate risk to safety,” according to the Carolina Alert website, and students won’t be notified if the university closes for severe weather.
If students want to be texted in those situations, Bocchino suggested that they have Carolina Alert’s Twitter messages sent to their cell phones instead.
“If you want [a text message in] some of these instances where life safety isn’t an issue but it still warrants a message — severe weather warning, school closings, crime alerts — it’s very easy to sign up for Twitter and push that to your cell phone so you can get a text message,” he said.
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