Emergency management comes to UNC

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Emergency management comes to UNC

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By: Elyse McCoy, Staff Writer
Posted: 7/5/07

The University is in the initial stages of development for the Public Information Emergency Response Communication Management System, or PIER, an Internet-based communication tool used to help relay emergency-related content and messages.

Students, faculty and staff will be alerted in the event of a crime, unexpected weather emergency or other event that requires immediate warning through a secure Web page that will look like a regular UNC-Chapel Hill Web page. Using the PIER system, campus security officials can post key emergency materials; templates of information prepared in advance about certain scenarios; detailed information about how to reach the University's key constituents, including students, faculty and staff; and background information about the campus, maps and emergency policies and procedures.

PIER also provides the capability to track and respond to questions from key stakeholders or the general public.

Following the Virginia Tech shootings, the University has strengthened its already extensive plans and procedures, but plans for developing a contract with the PIER vendor for the 16-campus UNC system have been in existence since the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

UNC-Wilmington and UNC-Charlotte have been the most involved campuses to date, with Wilmington being designated the first campus to begin its PIER-related work and training several months ago.

The PIER system's clients include the U.S. Coast Guard - which used the system during Hurricane Katrina, the University of Houston, and several major corporations.

UNC-Chapel Hill has just recently begun training a small group of key people most likely to be involved with using PIER as a communication tool in an emergency situation, including those involved in University relations, public safety and information technology departments.

"We have started working on training issues as the spring semester was winding down and will continue over the summer," said Mike McFarland, the director of University communications.

"We believe PIER can help complement resources the University already uses and are developing, such as a siren system and the Rave system to communicate quickly, accurately and effectively with students, faculty, staff and other University-related audiences or the general public," McFarland said. Unlike the PIER system, which is primarily focused around managing information in an emergency, the Rave system is part of a broader effort to extend the campus to mobile phones.

"Rave has much more day-to-day impact on the lives of our students," said Brian Payst, the director of Technology & Systems Support.

"We certainly can, and will if needed, use Rave to send emergency broadcast messages, but it does much, much more than that for us."

The Rave system is used to provide bus arrival times for all the Chapel Hill Transit routes and stops, the ability to read UNC e-mail, information from slice.unc.edu about student events, Blackboard alerts, Rave Guardian (an enhanced personal safety service), group messaging, polls and more on students' mobile phones. The University's partnership with Rave Wireless also enables the University to offer a steeply discounted cell phone program to students living in residence halls on campus in order to allow access to these services at the lowest possible cost.

The campus Emergency Notification committee has been coordinating efforts to integrate the PIER and Rave systems as much as possible to reduce duplication where it exists.

"We plan to integrate the information coming from PIER into a spot in the UNC mobile phone interface so you can easily check for closings or other important announcements coming from PIER," Payst said.

Payst does not think that the implementation of both the PIER system and the Rave system will be confusing to either students or their parents.

"They do different things, so we do not think it will be all that confusing, and we will work hard to clearly communicate the distinctions where they arise."

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Original Source: <a href=http://media.www.dailytarheel.com/media/storage/paper885/news/2007/07/05/University/Emergency.Management.Comes.To.Unc-2921381.shtml>The Daily Tar Heel - July 05, 2007</a>

Creator

Elyse McCoy

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The Daily Tar Heel

Date

2007-07-15

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Sara Hood

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Kevin Schwartz <kschwartz@unc.edu>

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eng

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Elyse McCoy, "Emergency management comes to UNC," in The April 16 Archive, Item #739, http://www.april16archive.org/items/show/739 (accessed December 21, 2014).