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Friday, May 27, 2022

Fay puts UF's emergency notification system to the test

When Tropical Storm Fay forced officials to close UF on Friday, the university's emergency-notification system was put to its first real test after undergoing two practice runs in spring.

Steve Orlando, UF spokesman, said the system was largely successful in notifying students, faculty and staff Thursday about stalled residence hall move-in dates and the campus's closing.

However, the system, which includes text messaging, e-mails, Web posts and reverse-911 calls, still needs a little tweaking.

Of more than 71,000 numbers in the system, 48,823 phones received the emergency alert successfully, Orlando said.

About 18,600 messages were not received, and the status of almost 4,000 messages cannot be determined, he said.

Orlando said the reasons for the unsuccessful messages have not been confirmed, but possible factors include students incorrectly entering their cell phone numbers when providing their contact information, entering a landline instead of a cell phone, not having text messaging on cell-phone plans or being out of range when the message was sent.

He said students who did not receive the message should check their contact information online.

Sara Ajluni, a UF journalism senior, said she thinks the text message alerts are a convenient way to receive information, but the last message didn't affect her since she wasn't in Gainesville at the time.

The message was also the first one she received. Ajluni didn't receive the two tests the university sent out.

"I was happy because I actually got them this time," she said. "I think it would be efficient in other situations, too."

In addition to the text message, the university also sent out e-mails to students informing them of UF closing for the storm and posted the message on the UF home page.

Orlando said more than 84,000 e-mails were sent out, and the vast majority were sent in about 20 minutes.

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Ashley Condell, a freshman, was one of the students who had to rely on her e-mail instead of text messaging to find out if UF had closed from the storm.

Because classes were not in session, Condell said it didn't bother her that she didn't receive the message even though she said she updated her information online.

Orlando said he is confident everyone received the information through at least one of the system's notifications.

UF first considered implementing a text-messaging alert system during the 2004 hurricane season, Orlando said.

Two tests of the system were conducted during the spring semester, and Orlando said more tests would be conducted throughout the term.

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