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Students react to Emergency Notification Network test last Thursday

Texting during class is not usually tolerated, unless the message is from the University of Miami’s Emergency Notification Network (ENN).

On Thursday at 12:15 p.m., the university launched a full-scale test of its ENN, an campus-wide communications system that sends text messages, e-mails and voicemail messages to cell, home and office phones in the event of an emergency, implemented after the Virginia Tech tragedy in April 2007. The test, which some students said proved to be more effective on Thursday than last fall, intended to simulate an emergency situation and included outdoor sirens. 

“Many people complained that they received no notification for hours during last year’s test,” said Sophomore Elementary Education major Brittany Locke. “But I started getting messages at 12:20 today. That’s pretty close to the time it started.” 

When the ENN was tested for the first time last fall, it proved to have many shortcomings. While 98 percent, according to the UM Web site, of the student body had registered online to receive messages to their cell phones in case of an emergency, some received the warnings hours too late or not at all. Flashing lights and the emergency alarm blasts on campus did not serve their purpose, since many students confused them for a lightning alert.

“It sounds just like the thunderstorm warning,” Deniz Tumer, a sophomore said of Thursday’s ENN test.  “If I didn’t already know they were going to be running this drill, I would think it was just a storm.” Tumer, who has had her contact information registered in the system since last year, did not receive an emergency text message. She did receive an e-mail 13 minutes later. “A killer could have run all over campus by now,” Tumer said.

The alarms went off a second time at 12:35 pm. Michaela Durinova, a freshman, was walking back from class and said that she did not notice anything. She did not receive a text but was sent an e-mail before the drill even started, at 11:31 am. “The whole idea of this system definitely makes me feel safe anyway,”” Durinova said.

Lisa Davis, a sophomore, received an automated phone call at 12:28 pm. “I felt that last year was better because I received a text message instead of a voicemail, which alerted me much faster,” Davis said. Davis added that she feels safe on campus because of the high number of police and security guards, but she does not fully trust the ENN yet.

Although the ENN showed some progress from last year, in some cases sending out two rounds of emergency notifications, results among students were varied and alerts were untimely.

“It worried me that everyone received something different at varied times,” Davis said. “There are definitely improvements that still need to be made.”

ENN has been used in practice drills by Canes Emergency Response Team (CERT), the university’s student-composed and led emergency response team. In addition, ENN was implemented during February’s daylong power outage to inform students the university would remain open. Transfer student Nadine Sebai says she supports the network despite the fact she didn’t receive the text message until 1:43 PM. “”My old college didn’t have anything like this, but between hurricanes and school shootings, I think it’s really important,” she said.

To sign up to be notified by ENN, log-in to MyUM. Students who did not receive text messages or are dissatisfied with the service are encouraged to visit www.miami.edu/prepare to voice their concerns.

Mikaela Green, Lindsay Kessler, Jessica Macias, Ryan Rose, Debora Rubi, Jackie Smith, Estefania Aguayo, Lilliam Albizu-Campos, Tracy Anioce, Jared Bassman, Meron Berkson, Scott Braun and Kevin Clark contributed to this article.

September 23, 2008

Reporters

Daniel Medina

Contributing Columnist


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