Joe Thalheimer and Bryan Garey discuss the CEMP

Joe Thalheimer and Bryan Garey discuss the CEMP inside the Department of Emergency Management  

Two issues with the UCF Mobile App and indoor notification system were revealed when UCF Emergency Management conducted a series of testing on the emergency notification system last Wednesday.

The emergency notification system, also called UCF Alerts, consists of the indoor notifications that voice instructions in the event of an emergency over an intercom, outdoor sirens, mass texting and emailing through the Rave system, the UCF Mobile App, emergency website, WUCF Emergency Alert System, Twitter and Facebook.

A request by the Office of the President asking to exclude the Fairwinds Alumni Center from indoor notification testing due to a Board of Governors' meeting caused the emergency indoor notification server to crash twice, according to Wednesday's report of the UCF Alert emergency notification system test.

Joe Thalheimer, UCF emergency management director, had to reboot the server in its entirety, which took about three minutes, then launch the message to activate the indoor notifications again.

“I think a lot of that has to do with the limitations of the operating system,” Thalheimer said. “When we get the new version that stuff will go away ⁠— that quirkiness. The platform it's based on is Windows 7 and just because of the age can be temperamental with some newer stuff, but once we go to Waves 10.1 that will go away.”

UCF is currently in the process of purchasing an upgrade of the Eaton Waves system, which is the wide-area mass notification system used for indoor notifications. The upgrade should be ready to use by Jan. 6, 2020.

The emergency notification system testing also revealed an issue with the UCF Mobile App. The app failed to send messages stating they were testing the system out after it was programmed to send them from 1 p.m to 1:15 p.m. Thalheimer attributed the issue to an app reworking that had to be tweaked within its software.

“This was the first time that we have ever experienced an error [since its launch in January]," Thalheimer said.

The UCF Alerts test report states that every other system for notifications worked correctly.

The notification testing always keeps in mind UCF student and faculty safety as well as federal guidelines. The predefined goals are measured against each policy in how UCF notifies students, who can activate the system and what is considered a life-safety issue.

“What drives it is the well-being of the students and having multiple ways of letting people know in the event of an emergency,” Thalheimer said.

The UCF Emergency Notification Policy was adopted in 2009 and the approval was signed in July of this year by the vice president and chief operating officer. This eight-page policy is reviewed by the Board of Trustees and the Department of Emergency Management every five years. The outline-formatted policy includes definitions of emergencies, authority levels to activate UCF Alerts and how the UCF alert system works.

In contrast, the department revises the over 70-page university-wide Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan which provides a more descriptive guidance to UCF operations in the event of an emergency or disaster and records changes of the plan every two years. The department is hoping to be done reviewing the new CEMP by the end of this year and publish the new version in 2020.

Bryan Garey, the plans and programs coordinator at the Department of Emergency Management, said that for each plan, all of the stakeholders are brought together to outline what needs to be in that plan.

“It’s really a collaborative effort,” Garey said. "So we are not getting procedural. We are not getting boots on the ground. We are talking building a framework of response and recovery. After you’ve got the plan, it's not done yet. What you do is then you train on the plan and you exercise the plan and you see what’s right in it, what’s wrong in it and how can we improve it.”

The U.S. has experienced 69 mass shootings from 2009-2019, according to Mother Jones magazine, which keeps a running spreadsheet on mass shootings open to the public.

“When it comes to mass shootings, timely warning is one of the most important portions,” Garey said. “So Joe's [Thalheimer] testing of this system gives us that data of how quickly we can push out that information and what actions staff, students and faculty are taking. Yes, it has impacted us but it’s something we routinely train and prepare for. The UCF community should feel pretty good about the things that we have managed to put in place here."

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