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The Mass Media

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February 26, 2024
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UMass Boston Rolls Out New E-Mail Alert System

In an effort to quickly spread important information onto UMass Boston students and staff in the event of an urgent scenario, the University has adopted a multi-tiered emergency system to assist in the monumental task.

Some students may remember last semester when a severe snow storm practically paralyzed the roads and resulted in the closure of the school midday. Others may find it hard to forget last Thursday’s tragic loss of five students after a gunman opened fire in a geology classroom at Northern Illinois University before taking his own life.

Anne Agee, UMB’s Vice-Provost for Information Technology, stressed that in such a dangerous and susceptible environment as a university, where thousands of people could be affected, it’s imperative to utilize a preventative tool that increases safety for students and staff.

“The system has been developing since 9/11 when the need for effective communication in an emergency event became all too apparent,” Agee said. “It was further brought to a head by the tragedy at Virginia Tech and the various reports issued after it, which emphasized the need for a fast, efficient emergency notification,”

The emergency technology protocol, administered by the Dialogic Communications Corporation (DCC), will include e-mail messages, telephone calls, pager notifications, and even text messages in order to notify students of security concerns ranging from threatening weather conditions to much more potentially dangerous situations.

“The emergency notification would be used to provide information to the UMB community when there is a significant threat to the safety of faculty, students, staff and visitors to the community,” explained Richard Lee from UMB’s Public Safety Office.

Lee said that fires, explosions, chemical accidents, severe storms or local incidents which pose a threat to the safety of the community, as well as more severe incidents such as an active shooter or an act of terrorism, are all events that would trigger the emergency notification system.

In addition to the technological notification, UMB will use other message and information systems such as alarm systems, loud speakers, and electronic messaging systems such as the lobby TVs, campus radio station WUMB, and local media contacts to inform the public during an emergency.

Anne Marie Kent from UMB’s Communications Office said that, ideally, all university community members will be contacted after an initial email is sent to all people on the UMB email mailing list. UMB will soon set out on an awareness campaign to inform the populace of all their notification options in case of an emergency.

“Students, faculty, and staff will be able to designate cell phone numbers, alternate email addresses, or text messaging numbers where they wish to be contacted in an emergency situation,” Kent said, urging students to sign up to alternate contact mediums besides their UMB e-mail.

Although this potentially life-saving program is still in the process of being intensely tested and re-tested to ensure reliability, Kent said that the school’s efforts to maintain safety on campus will never be complete.

“The emergency notification system is just one part of a larger all-hazards plan of emergency preparedness designed to provide a multi-tiered level of protection using people, technology and planning to maintain the safety of our campus,” she said, adding that safety plans are constantly being assessed to ensure they are up to date to meet any evolving threat.