University of Chicago cAlert emergency notification system
Frequently asked questions — updated December 22, 2011
What is cAlert?
cAlert is the University’s emergency notification system. In a life-threatening situation which requires immediate action from our community, cAlert sends every member of our community a short message.
How does it work?
In an emergency, trained and authorized personnel enter a short message – less than 140 characters – into the cAlert system. That message is then distributed via email to every member of the University community, as well as SMS text messages and automated phone calls to those who sign up for expanded service.
What sort of event might trigger a cAlert?
Any imminent or ongoing threat to the lives and safety of members of the University community might be the occasion for sending a cAlert. That could include criminal activity, such as a gunman on campus. It could include localized hazards, such as a chemical spill or building collapse. It could also include broader threats, such as severe weather or a terrorist attack. cAlert would also be used any time campus had to be closed.
Who is enrolled?
Students, faculty, other academic personnel and staff of the University are automatically enrolled with the email address provided in the University directory.
What other devices can cAlert reach?
cAlert can reach multiple email accounts, home telephones, office telephones, and business and personal cell phones, through both voice and text messages. Each user can enroll up to 11 addresses or numbers for different devices. We encourage everybody to enroll the devices most likely to reach them quickly in the case of an emergency. Go to calert.uchicago.edu to enroll devices.
Will cAlert work on a pager?
Pagers are not currently covered by cAlert, but because many faculty and staff affiliated with the Medical Center use pagers, we are working with the third-party provider to make that a cAlert option.
How do I add devices?
To verify that automatically entered information is accurate and to add new devices that will receive cAlert messages, go to the website calert.uchicago.edu. Log in, using your cNet identification and password. The site will prompt you to edit or add information.
Who is eligible for cAlert?
In order to get cAlert messages, a member of the University community must have a cNet identification or a UCHAD identification, the system used by the University of Chicago Medical Center. If you have both a cNet and UCHAD identification, use your cNet identification and password to log into the cAlert system. If you have both forms of identification and cannot log in with your cNet identification, please contact email@example.com.
I’m having trouble logging on – who can I contact?
Please write firstname.lastname@example.org.
What do I do when I receive a cAlert message?
Each cAlert message will include brief instructions on how to protect yourself. Please listen or read carefully and take those steps as soon as possible. cAlert also asks a user to confirm receipt of a message, with a reply that takes only a few keystrokes or the push of a button. A user need only confirm receipt once.
Why should I confirm receipt?
Depending on the type of event, emergency responders might use confirmation information to determine if people are in harm’s way, if further search of an area is necessary, or to help locate missing people. In a test, confirmation is the only sure way to know whether the cAlert message has been received, and the system is working effectively. Please confirm any time you receive a cAlert message, whether it is a real event or a test.
Where can I get more information in an emergency?
The most efficient and accurate source of information in most cases will be the University website home page, uchicago.edu. In some cases, University social media channels might also be used. Misinformation is a significant risk and potential source of trouble in any fast-developing situation, so we urge University affiliates to rely on official University information.
Has cAlert been tested?
The cAlert system in its most current form was successfully tested across the whole University community on Nov. 22. For more information on that test and results, please see http://news.uchicago.edu/article/2011/11/17/university-test-emergency-alert-system-nov-22.
What lessons were learned in the test?
Like any good exercise, the Nov. 22 test pointed to areas for improvement, from operator training to the wording of the message itself. And while the community response was good for a first test, we also recognize that there is considerable room for improvement in the community’s understanding of the system, participation and response. For that reason we will continue to test the system on a regular basis, and provide information in many venues.
Some of my colleagues got a cAlert test message before me – why?
The cAlert system sends out messages nearly simultaneously. But the exact timing of message receipt also depends on the network or system to which each device is connected. For instance, different cellular providers may process the cAlert messages differently in getting them to your phone. While cAlert cannot control those third-party networks, our provider does work with major networks in an ongoing effort to make delivery as timely as possible.
I signed up to get cAlert by email, text and phone messages, but only get the test message through one device — why didn’t I get all three kinds of alert?
As soon as you confirm receipt of one alert, the system stops sending that message to other devices, to eliminate repetition. That is the most likely cause. But it is good practice periodically to check calert.uchicago.edu to make sure you are enrolled with the correct addresses and phone numbers.
Who is the University’s vendor for cAlert?
After a rigorous bidding process last summer, the University chose Everbridge, for the reliability, effectiveness and suitability of its system. For more information on Everbridge, please see: http://www.everbridge.com/education.
How do I know it is safe to open a cAlert email?
cAlert email messages are safe, simple, text-only messages. Most email systems will show the sender as “UChicago Alert.” If your system shows you the full return address of the sender, it will include the domain “everbridge.net” — either way it appears, that message is safe and important for you to read.
Will there be future tests?
As the campus community familiarizes itself with cAlert, we hope to conduct two more tests of the system during the 2011-2012 academic year. Depending on the results of those tests, we may move toward a regular schedule that would test the system twice a year.
Is cAlert the only emergency notification system?
The University continues to build and enhance its emergency capacity. In addition to the revamped cAlert system, which uses technology to reach individuals, the University is also expanding a system of loudspeakers that will broadcast audio voice warnings in gathering places indoors and outdoors. The outdoor system utilizes speakers on the e-phone kiosks, while dedicated indoor systems have been installed in key locations such as dining halls. More information on emergency loudspeakers and loudspeaker testing will be available in 2012.
How does the University notify me of less severe situations?
At this point, cAlert is intended only for the most immediate, life-threatening situations. For criminal activity that poses a less immediate threat but still calls for the University community to take steps to protect itself, all-campus emails known as “security alerts” are sent out by the department of Safety and Security. For those who want detailed information on all UCPD activity, a daily log is available at http://www.uchicago.edu/php/safety/incidentReports.php and through an RSS feed. Lesser, non-criminal threats are handled through emails, meetings or other communications tailored to the particular situation.