News  McGill launches new emergency notification system

This past Tuesday, McGill’s Emergency Measures Office (EMO) launched its new emergency communication software, Alertus. The software is a part of McGill Attention! –  the University’s mass emergency notification system.

In order to function, Alertus must be downloaded and installed onto a computer. When the program is triggered, pop-up messages appear on computers that have it installed. Computer users must click an “Acknowledge” button in order for the message to disappear. According to Alertus’ website, the process is tracked by the system on a unit-by-unit basis.

McGill stated in an email to all students on Monday that Alertus would be activated only in the event of an emergency, evacuation, or University closure.

The email also stated that Alertus is part of the EMO’s ongoing efforts to improve emergency communications at McGill, based on the recommendations of Dean of Law Daniel Jutras’ report on November 10.

The Jutras Report states that “Security Services should…establish fixed lines of communication with the different constituencies on campus, particularly with student groups and University community organizations.”

A major criticism following the events of November 10 was that McGill failed to communicate to students about what was occuring on campus.

Director of University Safety Louise Savard said that McGill was made aware of Alertus a year and a half ago, when approached by the company, Alertus Technologies.

“It’s been in development here for I would say probably more than half a year,” she said.

Savard added that Alertus is “a complement to our mass notification tool kit…that doesn’t replace anything that we’ve previously been using.”

Alertus Technologies was founded in 2002 after a tornado killed two students at the University of Maryland. The company specializes in alert systems for large-scale facilities.

According to Savard, most computers on campus will have Alertus software installed. The software was first tested on 1,413 computers. As of Tuesday morning, 3,625 computers are now registered with Alertus.

If activated, Alertus’ message can only be targeted to computers on McGill’s downtown campus, Macdonald campus, or laptops.

A valid McGill username is needed to install Alertus.

“The service is intended for the McGill community,” Savard said.