UC Berkeley News


WarnMe system designed to notify you of emergencies quickly
Stay connected to the campus while staying safe, as emergency alerts reach you by phone, e-mail, or text

| 27 August 2008

The WarnMe system is now up, running, and welcoming sign-ups. Students, staff, and faculty are urged to sign up now. (A CalNet ID is needed to enroll.)


UC Berkeley has instituted a new alerting and warning service this fall to help keep the campus community safe in an immediate crisis. It is part of continuing efforts to improve campus safety and emergency response.

Called “WarnMe,” the new campus service will proactively contact individual students, faculty, and staff to warn them of situations on or near campus that may pose an immediate threat to their safety — and to provide instructions on what to do. Alerts and instructions will also be sent in other kinds of significant emergencies, such as major accidents and natural disasters.

“The system uses contact information you yourself provide,” said UC Berkeley Police Chief Victoria Harrison. “Emergency alerts and instructions can be sent via cell phone, text messaging, e-mail, and office and home phones, including TTY devices.”

The new system was carefully planned and tested ahead of this week’s rollout. To ensure reliable service 24/7, the campus is working closely with a commercial provider that specializes in rapid public notification, and which has redundant infrastructure at multiple sites around the county. UC Davis and Vanderbilt University use the same provider for their alerting and warning systems.

Opt-in to receive warnings

WarnMe is being launched as an opt-in system. To receive alerts and instructions you must sign up at warnme.berkeley.edu by providing your current contact information. You will be able to select how you prefer to be notified — via cell phone, texting, e-mail, office phone, home phone, or TTY — and in which order your chosen devices should receive the warning. In all, you may choose to receive messages on up to seven communication devices. The system will attempt to notify you at all numbers and addresses you provide. Participation in the new system is free, but you may incur a per-message cost, depending on your mobile-device plan.

“With our new system, up-to-date data will equal effective warning,” said Chief Harrison. “The more current and complete your contact information, the more helpful the system is.” Individuals may update their contact information at any time, with changes becoming effective within 24 hours. All contact information will be protected and kept private: It will be used only for WarnMe and will not be included in campus directories.

It is vital that managers and supervisors immediately alert employees who do not have access to phones and e-mail when emergency warnings and instructions are received.

Active WarnMe messages will begin with “emergency,” “urgent,” or “important.” Tests of the system will begin with the word “test.” WarnMe messages for each circumstance will include a situation description and the action you should take immediately. They may also include additional information, depending on the incident.

In a developing or fast-changing situation, the initial message may be very general, such as “Emergency: There is a chemical hazard near Evans Hall. Police are responding. Shelter in place until further notice.” As the situation develops, more specific information would be sent and instructions would be updated. “Urgent” and “important” messages will be used when information and instructions are helpful but individual action may not be required immediately.

A suite of emergency resources

WarnMe is part of the campus’s emergency-communications system. In all emergencies, natural disasters, and other crises, information will be posted on the campus homepage, berkeley.edu, and on the off-site emergency website, emergency.berkeley.edu. It will also be recorded on the campus’s off-site, toll-free emergency number (1-800-705-9998) and broadcast on the campus radio station, KALX (90.7 FM).

In addition to the new WarnMe system, the campus will continue to use its siren alert. The siren is tested the first Wednesday of every month at noon. At all other times when you hear the siren, you should shelter in place and close doors and windows. For information and instructions, go to the campus website, call the 800 number, or tune to KALX for information and instructions.

For online information about emergency preparedness, including what to do in many kinds of emergencies, visit the Office of Emergency Preparedness website (oep.berkeley.edu/emergencies/earthquakes).

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