Updated system facilitates warnings

The UH community can rest a little easier this hurricane season as the Public Information Emergency Response system will send out campus closure alerts during natural disasters and other emergencies.

Installed at the beginning of Fall 2006, the PIER system underwent testing during the spring so that it would be prepared for hurricane season.

"We effectively used the PIER system a few times last spring for class cancellations and classes that let out early," Vice President of Plant Operations David Irvin said. "Our new system is much more reliable and more efficient. We have a real good system now."

The PIER system, which will include Evacuation plans and planning drills, will inform the UH community of any class cancellations through e-mail and text messages.

Prior to the new system, UH contacted students via e-mail or voice messages. The PIER system can now send out e-mail and text messages at a much faster rate.

"The PIER system allows us to send out mass e-mails and text messages to staff and students in a matter of minutes," Irvin said. "The old emergency contact system we had took several hours to get e-mails and text messages out to the students."

Another disadvantage of the prior emergency contact system had was when a server or system did not function, students had to wait even longer than the two hours to be notified of any class cancellation or other information. The PIER system can operate even if the whole UH computer system is shut down.

Students are urged to update their emergency contact information through PeopleSoft 8.9 by clicking the "Campus Personal Information" tab and filling in current e-mail addresses and phone numbers.

"I like the e-mails, but not everyone checks their e-mails," history senior Kinal Patel said. "I would like to see updates on WebCT and the front of the UH Web site, with a larger font."

Although it is not a part of the PIER system, the UH Office of External Communication will alert local media about UH’s status during an emergency as another outlet to inform staff and students about campus closures.

Hotel and restaurant management sophomore Andrew Soliz said every student should know the emergency contact number.

"If the number was easy to find on the Web site, students could call and know whether classes were cancelled or not," Soliz said.

Students can call UH OnCall at (713) 743-2255 to find out up-to-date information on school closures during emergencies.

Irvin said that several other adjustments have been made to prepare for the hurricane season.

"Generators have been added to four buildings on campus," Irvin said. "If the whole city were to lose power, we would still have power in those buildings equipped with generators to act as command centers."

In the case a full evacuation is necessary, UH has preparations in place such as buses and drivers who will transport students who live on campus to predetermined areas.

"Emergency preparation is not something that is done over night," Irvin said. "Emergency preparedness is definitely a journey.

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