On Wednesday, as students in the library worked their way through the final weeks of spring semester, Public Safety launched a test of University of Portland’s emergency alert system. During the test, students hid under desks and turned the lights off to practice what they would do in the event of an active shooter. But some students, in classrooms and in the Pilot House, went about as normal.
While those in the library waited in silence for the end of the drill, students in the Beauchamp Recreation Center listened to Michael McNerney, Public Safety’s communications and technology coordinator, discuss strategies for dealing with an active shooter.
At 9:45 a.m., Public Safety sent out a text message advising students to take “shelter in a secure location” through the Emergency Alert system. While the cell phone and email alert system has been put in use before, PSAFE also experimented with a new system called Informacast, which sends an alert through the classroom and office phones. The drill was announced through phone calls and Public Safety officers in the Bauccio Commons, Pilot House, library, Beauchamp Recreation Center and some classrooms and offices.
“The drill went well,” said Gerry Gregg, director of Public Safety. “We had much more active participation from members of the community that were on campus this time than we have in the past.”
The test, which lasted for seven minutes, gave Public Safety some useful feedback for improving the system. While Gregg felt that students and faculty who were aware of the drill did well in responding to it, some were unaware that it had happened.
The first use of the new system revealed that the volume needs to be raised on classroom phones and PA systems. Some community members, like those in the Pilot House and various classrooms, were unable to hear the broadcast.
Gregg also advised that students should take this drill as an opportunity to adopt emergency preparedness as an ongoing process.
“If there were an emergency,” Gregg said. “What are my options, how do I respond?”
Gregg recommends members of the community begin to think about plans of action for emergencies at their homes or places of work and invest in things such as emergency kits, blankets and extra water in their cars and homes.
“We’ve always learned things from these [drills],” Gregg said. “And identify how we can make the system more robust.”