AlertWave System testing

By Kaiti Deerberg

Columbia plans to test the campus’ new AlertWave Notification System throughout November.

Administration released a statement on Oct. 24 announcing the installation of the AlertWave Notification System was complete, and students and faculty can expect tests of the system to occur before the end of the semester.

Micki Leventhal, director of media relations at Columbia, said initial system testing will take place in November and shelter-in-place drills will occur in December. But no specific dates have been set.

Mike Debish, associate vice president of Facilities and Operations, said students can expect to hear test messages throughout November.

“We want to get people used to hearing these messages,” Debish said, “so they will not be startled and will be able to act accordingly when instructed by the AlertWave System.”

Debish said after a month of test messages, they will begin shelter-in-place drills. During shelter-in-place drills, students will be expected to remain in their current location until notified otherwise. Debish said the administration has not yet formed a plan to check buildings and monitor student cooperation during these drills.

After initial testing in the next two months, administration plans to execute shelter-in-place drills each semester on a schedule similar to standard fire drills.

Leventhal also said the system will only be used for campus emergency situations involving security. The system will not be used to notify students about severe weather conditions or school closings.

Administration spent approximately $1 million installing more than 3,000 LCD screens, speakers and flashing lights in spaces throughout campus over the summer. Although the AlertWave System was installed in all campus buildings, it is not currently installed in Columbia residence halls, with the exception of 731 S. Plymouth Court. Columbia leases the other residence halls and does not own them.

The AlertWave System allows operators to target and alert specific areas of campus as well as customize the type of notification sent out. Leventhal said there will not be a protocol notification, but the type of message will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

The system will be controlled by personnel in the Campus Safety and Security office in the 619 S. Wabash Ave. building and the Alexandroff Campus Center, 600 S. Michigan Ave.

The AlertWave System is being used on campuses around the country, including local schools such as DePaul University and University of Illinois Chicago.

“The system is great for campuses,” said Mike Lauzon, a representative of Visiplex, the company who created AlertWave. “It allows administration to alert and notify a student body quickly, efficiently and


Although the system has been praised as efficient, in the case of a power outage the AlertWave System is rendered inactive, unless a battery backup option was purchased for the system. Columbia did not purchase this option.

Send Word Now, Columbia’s e-mail, voice and text message notification system, will also be tested in November. Send Word Now has been in use on campus for about a year; it is not, however, an automatic system. Students and faculty must sign up to receive notifications.

To sign up for Send Word Now notifications, log on to Oasis and complete the “address/emergency update” section under the “students” tab.