This is Only a Test: University of Idaho Will Test Emergency Notification System

Wednesday, January 28 2009

Jan. 28, 2009 Written by Michelle Galey MOSCOW, Idaho –The University of Idaho will conduct a test of its emergency notification system this week. During the test, students, faculty and staff at university locations around the state will receive test emergency messages by telephone, cell phone, text and e-mail. The brief message will indicate that a test of the emergency alert system is underway. The notification will be issued to everyone enrolled in the emergency notification system, or current university-affiliated individuals with a VandalWeb account. The system is designed to reach current students, faculty and staff, or about 14,000 individuals. “This test will provide valuable information about the capabilities of the system,” said Ryan Bertalotto, emergency and security services officer with the university. “We anticipate the test will demonstrate that the system works quite well. However, we expect it will identify some areas that remain to be addressed.” A notable feature of the University of Idaho’s emergency communications system is that it is persistent – it will cycle through all contact information that an individual has entered into the system, such as e-mail address, cell phone number or home phone number, Bertalotto said. “We want to remind everyone on the system of the importance of following the instructions at the end of the message and confirming receipt,” he said. “That confirmation is extremely important because it tells the system that it does not need to continue trying to reach the recipient again by the same or other methods, which it is intentionally designed to do until confirmation of the message is acknowledged.” Confirming the receipt of the emergency messages quickly allows the system to operate at maximum efficiency and to get messages out to more people in a shorter amount of time. University-affiliated individuals have received more specific instructions by e-mail on how to review and correct their information through the university’s Web-based VandalWeb portal, accessible from the University’s home page. The University of Idaho’s emergency notification system was installed last November and has been undergoing limited tests, but this month’s exercise will mark the first actual full-scale test of the system, said Bertalotto. The university community received a 72-hour notice of intent to test via e-mail on Tuesday. “It is imperative that students, faculty and staff who wish to be notified via the emergency notification system have their correct contact information in the system,” said Bertalotto. The system updates new information once every 24 hours. By using an “opt-out” system, university emergency planners will reach a higher number of participants. Bertalotto said that about 95 percent of the students, faculty and staff at the University of Idaho are registered to receive the university’s emergency notifications – a figure that compares favorably to the average registration figure of approximately 25 percent for “opt-in” systems in operation at other colleges and universities. Emergency information also is made publicly available by the university online through news releases and/or advisories to local media; through a 24/7 message line, (208) 885-1010; through alert notices on the university’s home page; and at Emergency response and training exercises at the university will continue through 2009. # # # About the University of Idaho Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 150 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. For information, visit Media Contact: Tania Thompson, University Communications, (208) 885-6567,

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit