University to test emergency alert system Nov. 22

Update, Dec. 22, 2011: On Nov. 22 the cAlert system sent 101,229 test notifications to more than 42,000 members of the University community, beginning at 12:09 p.m. More than half the messages were sent in the first nine minutes. Approximately 31 percent of all users confirmed receipt of the test message, with most responding to email messages, followed by SMS text messages and automatic voice messages.

“This was very successful for a first test. The system performed up to our expectations, and our community responded well,” said Marlon Lynch, Associate Vice President for Safety and Security. “At the same time, we have pinpointed areas where we can improve, and we will build on these results.”

Lynch said the University hopes to test the system again in the Winter Quarter. He encouraged all members of the University community to visit to ensure that user information is accurate, and to enroll any cellphones or other devices that will reach a user quickly in an emergency.

To learn more about the cAlert system, please read these FAQ.

University officials will conduct a scheduled test of cAlert, the emergency notification system, at noon on Tuesday, Nov. 22.

The cAlert system is designed to notify the campus community immediately in the case of the most severe, life-threatening emergencies — situations that require immediate action by members of the community.

In Tuesday’s test, as in a real emergency, every member of the University community will be notified by up to 10 methods, including automated calls to cell and office phones, text messages and emails.

Tuesday’s message will read, “Test of UChicago emergency alert system. No action is required.” Email messages will bear the subject line, “Test of emergency cAlert system.”

Each message will give the user a simple way to confirm receipt of the message. Recipients are strongly encouraged to confirm — one purpose of the test is to gather data on how many users get the message, and via what device. Users who do not confirm may receive a second alert.

In the case of a real emergency, a cAlert message would include how to take action to be safe, and where to turn for more information.

Beginning this fall, everyone in the University directory is automatically signed up for cAlert, through the UChicago email addresses in the directory. But these contacts may not be the best way to reach every member of the community immediately.

Please visit to update your information. This step is vital to ensure that the system can effectively reach everyone in case of an emergency. You should include personal cell phone numbers and addresses for other portable devices.

“The cAlert system is one of our most powerful tools to keep people safe during an unfolding crime incident, a severe weather outbreak or other emergencies that threaten lives,” said Marlon Lynch, Associate Vice President for Safety and Security.

“But it is only as effective as each user makes it — I strongly recommend that each of us take a few minutes to make sure the system can reach us by the best method,” Lynch said. “As we have learned from other campuses, timely, direct emergency communication can make a critical difference.”

Questions about the system can be sent to For more information on safety at the University of Chicago, please see