VCU to test emergency communication systems (9/3)

From William R. Decatur, Vice President for Finance & Administration:

To the VCU and VCU Health System communities:

Like all institutions of higher education, VCU faces a variety of threats and hazards that may impact the quality of life on campus. As such, VCU is committed to supporting a wide variety of emergency alerting technologies that will help distribute emergency information in a timely and effective manner. As a comprehensive approach, these various technologies help inform the VCU community of the necessary and prudent protective actions.

At noon on Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014, VCU will conduct a full test of the emergency communications and alerting systems. This test is conducted to validate the readiness of these systems and to educate the VCU community to campus emergency preparedness activities.

The full test of the system will include sirens, text messages, alertus boxes, mass email, digital signs, social media and VCU website information, which are all part of a multichannel system for communicating emergency information to VCU students, faculty, staff, visitors and the community.

The following list contains more information about each of these alerting technologies:

Outdoor sirens
: In a real emergency, the 10 sirens on the Monroe Park and MCV campuses will sound for four minutes to signal that an immediate, life-threatening emergency has occurred or may be imminent. The purpose of the siren is to alert people outside of campus buildings to immediately seek secure shelter and to receive additional information. No all clear siren is utilized.

Text Messages
: These messages will be short protective action statements that will contain a link to where additional information will be located. VCU students, faculty and staff may subscribe to VCU Alert text messaging through the main VCU login screen used to log in to services such as the myVCU Portal, student email and the forthcoming faculty and staff Google-powered apps for VCU.

If the system recognizes you as having recently signed up for the text messaging service, you will be passed through to the service you were logging into. Otherwise, you will be asked to sign up again for emergency text messages with your VCU eID.

Parents and community members also may sign up for VCU’s text message alert system to receive information about campus emergencies and cancellations.

: These small yellow devices are strategically installed in classrooms, residence halls and other high traffic areas throughout campus. They are designed to provide an auditory and visual alert when a threat has occurred or is imminent. Much like text messages, a protective action statement will scroll on the screen during the threatening event.

Mass Email
: All VCU email account holders will receive an email containing the safety recommendations related to the event.

Social Media
: Alerting information will be posted to the @VCUNews Twitter account and the VCU Facebook page.

Digital Signage
: Digital displays are located throughout campus with a particular focus in high traffic areas. These signs will display the emergency alert and reference information that is posted to Alertus boxes and text messaging.

After the semester test, monthly checks of the siren system are conducted at noon on the first Wednesday of each month consisting of a one-minute steady wail that also recharges the siren batteries. If you have any comments, questions or concerns about the VCU alerting technologies please email


William R. Decatur

Vice President for Finance & Administration

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