Duke sees increase in awareness of emergency communications

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November 04, 2010The Oct. 27 test of the DukeALERT notification system revealed that the annual event has significantly increased awareness among the Duke community about how they will be notified in the event of an emergency.

Results from a survey conducted during the test reflect that nearly twice as many people received and recognized alert notification through three primary methods: e-mail, siren and text message.  

Ninety-one percent of the 2,388 survey respondents acknowledged receipt of the e-mail message compared to just over 50 percent the last two years; 42 percent heard the outdoor warning siren compared to about 25 percent the previous two years; and 31 percent received the text message compared to about 15 percent previously.  

“Using multiple mediums is critical for emergency communication, and our combination of e-mail, sirens, and text messaging are really proving to be an effective approach, along with our emergency website,” said Kyle Cavanaugh, vice president of Human Resources and Duke’s emergency management coordinator.

Survey results also helped clarify an issue that was raised during a previous test. Survey comments from the last test suggested that many people had problems hearing the siren or understanding the audio message that followed.  

Based on feedback to additional survey questions, the problems were found to be limited to individuals off campus or inside buildings – an expected result since the emergency sirens are designed for notifying people who are outdoors. Only 2 percent of respondents were outside and on campus during the test reported any problems hearing the siren or understanding the message.

In addition to the outdoor warning system and other communication tools, an announcement was posted on Duke’s emergency website, emergency.duke.edu. During the day of the test, the site received more than 3,600 visits, the majority coming within a one-hour period. The site continued to received traffic during the following week and peaked at 6,000 visits. Nearly 2,000 of those came mobile devices such as iPhones and iPods.

During the test, Duke also distributed more than 60,770 e-mails within a six minutes. Students and employees can ensure they receive e-mail notification by making sure their addresses are up to date in Duke’s systems. Students can review and update their information through ACES, employees through the Duke@Work self-service website.  

The number of people who received an emergency text message also increased from 4,639 last year to 6,146 this year.

Duke Police Chief John Dailey said he was encouraged by the trend but added that all employees and students with cell phones should sign up to receive text messages in case they’re away from their desk or personal computer.

“It’s important for individuals to take advantage of our communication methods and also seek additional information online if they hear the outdoor warning system,” Dailey said. “Not only is this a test of the operational components of the DukeALERT system, it’s also an opportunity for employees and students to review what they would do in an emergency.”

Students, faculty and staff can still test their DukeALERT knowledge with a quiz available on the Duke Police website.

“It’s essential that we practice these tests on a regular basis so in the event we have a real emergency, everyone will know what to do in short order,” Cavanaugh said. “Like other schools across the country, we’re focused on being multi-faceted in our communications to help create a safer campus.”