With the recent string of bomb threats at colleges and universities across the country, it’s important to stay informed on what to do should an emergency situation arise on our campus. To help keep our community safe, the University of St. Thomas has an emergency notification system that is activated when an incident takes place on campus or close by.

USTALERT is the comprehensive, multichannel alert notification system that informs the community when an emergency is in progress. The system is administered through a partnership between Public Safety and Student Affairs, under the direction of the University Action and Response Team (UART).

Register your mobile number

Text messages delivered to mobile devices offer the quickest option for notifying our community of an emergency. Eighty-eight percent of undergraduates are currently subscribed to receive updates via text message; however, the same is not true for graduate, professional and law students (29 percent) or faculty (18 percent).

If you are not sure if your number is registered or if you would like to add or update your mobile number, watch your inbox. Faculty, staff and students who do not have a mobile number registered through Murphy Online will be receiving an email with instructions on how to register.

What can you expect from USTALERT text messages? Notifications will be related to specific types of incidents deemed emergencies by Public Safety. They include active shooters, incidents that require evacuation such as bomb threats or gas leaks, and incidents such as a power outage or severe weather that would cancel classes. When necessary, notifications will be accompanied by instructions, such as an evacuation plan.

A test notification will go out once per semester to ensure the system is working properly.

New technology, faster alerts

Many people on campus are familiar with the CityWatch system, which sends text message alerts about emergencies to people who opted in with their mobile numbers. Since CityWatch was implemented, technology powering emergency notification systems has advanced and now allows messages to be delivered more quickly and effectively; consequently, Public Safety has replaced CityWatch with a much more comprehensive and effective system called RAVE.

With RAVE powering the USTALERT system, messages are sent much quicker and received in a more timely fashion – 2,500 text messages per second, 1,000 emails per second and 7,500 concurrent office phone calls per minute to name a few. This is significantly faster than the CityWatch system.

RAVE also allows more communication channels to be updated depending on the level of urgency, including text message, email, voicemail, the UST website, social media profiles and digital signage; in addition, messages can be targeted to specific groups depending on the nature of an emergency; for example, if there is a fire in a residence hall, a notification can be sent specifically targeting the students who live there.

Another benefit that RAVE offers is the verification of each subscriber’s mobile phone number with phone companies to help ensure the system is not bogged down with false or outdated numbers. Institutions such as the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have had excellent experience with response times using RAVE with populations of more than 110,000 subscribers on each campus.

Online emergency resources

In addition to the USTALERT notifications, online resources are available during an emergency to St. Thomas community members and the general public. The best, most up-to-date place for updates and information about an ongoing situation will be the St. Thomas homepage at www.stthomas.edu, which will switch over to emergency mode if it is determined necessary by UART.

In addition to highlighting the latest alert notifications from Public Safety, the emergency homepage will feature links to latest headlines from the public information officer and University Relations. It also will feature links resources from UST CARES, including ongoing assistance and support from offices such as Student Affairs, Campus Ministry, and Counseling and Psychological Services to name a few.

To learn more about the university’s emergency preparedness, visit the Public Safety website. You also can follow Public Safety on Twitter.

For more information on resources available during an emergency, visit the UST CARES website.

To receive the latest Public Safety alerts published in the St. Thomas Newsroom, visit the Public Safety Notices page or subscribe to the RSS feed.