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CIT Staff Contribute to Successful Test of More Powerful Cornell Emergency Mass Notification System

Related services: CUView Digital Signs


Students, faculty, and staff at Cornell depend on an increasingly diverse range of devices and technologies to communicate and receive information. At the same time, the need for the university to deliver emergency alerts quickly and accurately to its community has become essential.

In response, Cornell Police and the Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Office of Emergency Management have turned to CIT to help. A multi-tier alert aggregator application, Rave, allows delivery of alerts to a greater range of individuals, using a wide array of connected devices, networks, and enterprise information systems.

Championing these efforts were university Presidents Beth Garrett and Martha Pollack, with ongoing support from Executive Vice President and CFO Joanne DeStefano, and Vice President for Information Technologies and CIO Dave Lifka.

Within CIT, many teams and individuals contributed to the success of the test. The Commercial Applications group, headed by Vicky Mikula, including Rob Bandler and Sherri King from the PeopleSoft team, and Pete Bosanko in Email and Calendar Services, delivered centralized contact information. Andy Page, Manager of Video Engineering and Event Services, collaborated on the linking of CUView screens across campus to the alerts.

Central to the effort at EHS were Associate Director Frank Cantone and Emergency Manager Dan Maas.

According to Mark Conrad, Technical and Security Services Manager for the Cornell Police Department, “These advances obviously could not have happened without the efforts and know-how of CIT.”

Developing a “One-Button Process”

Conrad explained that the goal has been “to create a one-button process” to quickly deliver crucial emergency notices to the entire university community. Previously, for example, to deliver alerts to CUView panels around campus, University Relations staff would have to manually input information sent by the Cornell Police.

Using the Rave platform, a set of templates covering a range of emergency scenarios lets Conrad create alerts very quickly and accurately. In a crisis, every second counts for Cornell Police staff and officers, so the streamlined and straightforward process for creating an alert is a huge benefit to them.

Both Conrad and Page report that the successful test sent Wednesday, October 25, delivered on the project’s vision of a streamlined process. Using Rave, alerts were successfully delivered to CUView screens around campus. This extends the reach of notifications beyond the previous limited reach of voice phone, text message, and website posts. It also paves the way for additional expansion of the alert system’s reach. Rave also allows campus visitors to opt-in and opt out easily to text alerts.

Conrad noted that the time for delivery of alerts has improved dramatically with the new system – recipients see notifications in a matter of seconds, rather than as much as 10 minutes.

Next Steps

Conrad explained that the coming months will bring further enhancements. Additions to the IT charter for the project are already approved, and will allow the implementation of Rave’s Guardian app. This will give mobile device users control over how they receive alerts on their devices and enables two-way communication with the Cornell Police dispatch center.

The upcoming phase will also include integrating Rave with the Alertus desktop notification system. Alertus will provide more cost-effective options for, and better control of, messages to CUView screens, and add the ability to display alerts in classrooms – where faculty and students likely have their phones silenced and might otherwise miss the alert.

For more information about receiving voice or text alerts on your phone, visit the CornellALERT page.

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