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March 22, 2012

How to sign up for ENS notifications

Since the March 8 fatal shooting incident at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, followed within days by two bomb threats forcing evacuation of the Cathedral of Learning and a large-scale power outage on the Pittsburgh campus, Pitt has made good use of its Emergency Notification System (ENS) this month.

ENS serves all five Pitt campuses and, as of this week, had a total of 43,819 subscribers University-wide (2,412 faculty, 7,744 staff and 33,663 students), according to Jinx Walton, chief information officer and director of Computing Services.

That represents almost 90 percent of the 49,000-plus faculty, staff and students on all five campuses.

The ENS service is voluntary and free, although subscribers must pay for any per-call charges levied by their phone or device providers.

New subscribers can access the service by logging on to the Pitt Portal and clicking on Emergency Notification under the My Resources tab. Subscribers can test the system via a test mechanism at the sign-up site. A link to frequently asked questions about ENS also is on the sign-up site.

ENS subscribers automatically get emergency messages on their Pitt email accounts. Subscribers may designate up to three telephone numbers to be registered with the system, including phone numbers for non-Pitt individuals.

The system can accommodate both voice and text formats.

However, users are not able to enter a University phone number, to avoid having myriad calls to Pitt’s phone system in case of emergency.

“The ENS system is designed to be for mobile devices particularly, because that way the subscriber can update the information if their cell phone number or other contact information changes. They also can receive text messages by subscribing,” Walton said. “The delivery time depends on many factors, including the individual’s service carrier, but our experience is that all the messages go out under about 20 minutes.”

While the University has the capability to reach ENS non-subscribers via their Pitt email accounts, Walton said the lag-time would be considerably longer, which is why Pitt decided to implement ENS.

The system was launched in October 2007, in part as a response to the 2007 shootings on the Virginia Tech campus. Initially, only about 21 percent of the total University population subscribed.

Walton and other Pitt officials urged individuals who have not signed up to do so.

Jay Frerotte, director of Environmental Health and Safety, said, “The recent emergency events should compel individuals who have not opted to participate in the ENS system in the past to go online and enroll their preferred contact information.”

—Peter Hart

Occupants of the Cathedral of Learning wait on Schenley Plaza after evacuation March 14 due to a bomb threat.

Occupants of the Cathedral of Learning wait on Schenley Plaza after evacuation March 14 due to a bomb threat.

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