U of A Alerts is a combination of communication methods to alert you should an emergency incident happen at the University that poses a risk to life or health and requires timely notification of protective action recommendations. In other words: where there is urgent action required to stay alive.
U of A Alerts also provides information updates through less rapid means to keep you informed until the incident is resolved.
Scroll through the different ways that you can receive notifications should an emergency incident happen at the University.
How to Receive Notifications
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Examples of how Emergency Notification at the U of A works.
Ualberta.ca: The University's website main-page is the source for incident information during an incident. This will be updated after an emergency notification message is created, and may be delayed while detailed information is confirmed.
Alertus_Beacon: This is a new hardware piece that you will start to see around campuses. This technology allows us to reach classrooms and lecture theatres where personal phones may be off, and e-mail may be unmonitored. These beacons activate within minutes of receiving a message.
Alertus_Desktop This is a new software package we are piloting for all U of A computers. This software allows us to reach display boards, lab computers, and other work places where there may be no land-line. This software will activate within minutes of receiving a message.
Telephone This is our telephone emergency notification system, and reaches staff at their desks. Due to the large numbers of phones and the resources required to call them, this tool may take over an hour to complete its task.
Ualberta App. The University of Alberta's mobile application for iOS and Android devices contains the ability to notify you during emergencies. This technology allows us to reach you off-campus, and outside buildings. This app will activate within minutes of a message being created.
Text Messaging: The U of A can send SMS messages to you during an emergency. Normal rates will apply. See below on how to opt in. This technology allows us to reach you off-campus, and outside buildings. Due to the realities of SMS infrastructure and the complexity of relationships between wireless providers, SMS messages may take over an hour to be received.
E-mail: The U of A will send e-mail to all @ualberta.ca accounts during an emergency. Check your e-mail often. This allows us to send large amounts of information to all U of A citizens. Due to spam-prevention infrastructure that is core functionality in all e-mail services, this e-mail may be delayed for over an hour.
In all cases, when you received a message, please share it with those around you, including coworkers and peers.
Opting in to text messaging
In the fall of 2011 we moved to an improved system for broadcasting emergency text messages. To "opt-in" to receive emergency text messages, simply:
Text UOFAALERT to 77777 (standard rates will apply).
This will ensure your wireless provider knows you wish to receive these urgent messages and will help prevent the messages being labeled spam. You will receive a text message in case of a campus-wide alert. You will also receive two test text messages per year.
If at any point you wish to opt out, simply text STOP to 77777. If you cease your subscription you will continue to receive notifications through building alarms, e-mail, mobile app notification and web-page updates.
These Questions and Answers address common concerns about U of A Alerts.
Do the messages come in any other languages? No, the messages come only in English. If you have an idea about how we can improve this, we'd love to hear from you.
I can't remember if I signed up to 77777. Can I check? Yes. Simply follow the steps to sign up. If you are already in the system you will receive a message indicating "You have already subscribed to University of Alberta Emergency Alerts...."
How will the system notify me personally? The system is capable of sending a variety of messages to community members. Email messages will be sent to your University-supplied address (email@example.com). SMS messages will go to the text device at the number you provide. Ualberta App notifications will go to any iOs or Android device with the app installed, if notifications have been turn on on the device. Some lab and office computers are also equipped with a desktop interrupt that will take over your screen and show you an emergency message.
What kinds of emergencies is U of A Alerts used for?
Only for large-scale events that have implications for many people. This could include severe and imminent weather events such as tornadoes, “man-made” disasters such as fires or chemical releases or acts of violence.
How quickly can you actually send out a warning?
Messages can usually be issued within minutes. Information must be verified by University of Alberta Protective Services then input into the notification system for immediate delivery. Different delivery methods have different expected delivery times.
I've heard that email and SMS can be slow in an emergency.
When large volumes of messages are being delivered at once, the various systems can slow down. For this reason we ask everyone to pass on the message to those around them who may not have received it.
How will I recognize an emergency communication?
Text messages will show the following code: 77777
Email messages will show the following return address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Do I have to pay for the text messages you send me?
If your provider charges for text messages, yes.
What would an emergency message contain?
In a very few words, a typical message would indicate what is happening, where it is happening, and what you should do for your own safety and the safety of others.
Is the mobile application available only for Iphone?
No, the mobile application is available for Iphone, Ipad and Ipod Touch and Android devices.
I only check my U of A email address occasionally. Is that useful in a critical emergency?
The email component of the notification is only one of several methods. You will be notified using one of the other methods.
Will the system be available to all University of Alberta campuses?
All campuses have systems for emergency notification. E-mail, building alarms, text messaging, the mobile app, twitter, and the U of A website are all tools that are available to all campuses. Students in the Faculty of Extension do not receive U of A e-mail addresses, so they are not included in the e-mail delivery.
There are things that could go wrong – the phone and computer lines could go down; people could ignore their phones etc. Are you putting all your faith in this email and text message system?
No. The University will continue to use all existing alarm and warning systems. These include fire alarms, radio messaging to field staff, the University website, in person announcements, notice boards, and, when appropriate, public service announcements through the local media.
It seems strange to use SMS when many students are asked to turn their devices off in class. Does this mean it’s okay to leave my phone on?
Please continue to follow your instructors’ requests. As stated above, messages to email and text device make up only part of the University’s notification system.
Why did the text message take so long to get to my phone?
There are issues with some cell phone companies and the aggregators used to send mass text messages. This is a complex issue similar to the issue of 'spam' e-mail and is affecting mass notification services across Canada. Staff from the Office of Emergency Management, other post-secondary institutions and major cell phone carriers are working together on the analysis of the issue.
If I don't have my mobile phone or my e-mail in front of me, how else will I know an emergency is happening?
Building fire alarm systems remain the principal communication device for emergencies on campus. Before the alarm is activated, you may see, smell, or hear an emergency underway. Further, your colleagues, classmates, professors, teaching assistants, support staff and others may tell you about it. You may also see or hear First Responders attending the emergency or travelling to it.
If you have any other questions or need assistance, please contact Adam Conway at email@example.com or 780-492-0037