|Vol. 17, No. 19||Feb. 12, 1998|
A new emergency notification system designed to inform members of the University community in the case of a power outage or other emergency situation is now operational on the University's Newark campus.
Now, when an power outage occurs, a voice-mail system is activated, sending information about the nature and duration of the outage to the voice-mail boxes of unit administrators, safety committee chairpersons and other contact persons.
"When a power outage occurs, power is out except for the telephone," Robin Elliott, director of the Department of Occupational Health and Safety (DOHS), said. "We needed to come up with a system that tells people what to do when the power is out."
The emergency notification system can be very important for individuals working in laboratories or in basements and other areas that receive little or no natural light.
Laboratories must be evacuated immediately when an outage occurs because laboratory fume hoods will not operate properly without power, and a hazardous indoor environment could result. Elliott said.
An added concern is that while University buildings are equipped with emergency lighting devices, these battery powered devices are not designed to provide long-term lighting options.
Because of this and other safety concerns, the University procedure is to discontinue public events in the case of a power outage. Classes, however, are not considered public events.
This procedure also states that all individuals in the affected areas must evacuate buildings for outages longer than one hour, and that management will advise staff concerning alternate work areas or when to report back to the buildings.
Besides addressing the concerns of the general public and those working in laboratories or other experimental areas, the emergency notification system also provides University supervisors and employees with an opportunity to make informed important job-related decisions such as where to report in the case of an outage and when to return when an outage has ended.
"It is important for building occupants to be aware of the power outage system," Elliott said. "This new system is pro-active and permits individuals to leave an area if they think conditions are unsafe."
This new procedure concerning power outages has resulted in an addition to the University's Extreme Weather Power Outages Policy, which states that the University does not expect employees to take unnecessary risks to report or to remain at work.
The employee notification system will help in this regard by giving staff more information on which to base decisions concerning their personal safety, Elliott said.
When outages or other potential emergency situations occur, information from Facilities Management will be sent to the voice-mailboxes of more than 300 contact individuals, who are responsible for passing this information to members of their respective units.
If the power outage is expected to be long-term (four hours or more) a second message addressing this situation will be sent to the designated voice-mailboxes.
There is also a phone voice box that individuals can call to learn about the outage and when they can return to work.
This information can be accessed in the following way:
1. Dial University extension 4000 to reach the University's voice mail system.
2. Hit the pound key (#) to get another mailbox.
3. Enter 80534.
4. Listen to the message.
5. Hang up.
6. PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE MESSAGES IN THIS MAILBOX.
When a power outage has been resolved, there will be a confirmation call to the designated voice-boxes from the Operations Center at Facilities Management.
"In the past, before the procedure was in place, people would call occupational safety or facilities, wanting to know what they should do," Elliott said. "Now, facilities won't be hit with all kinds of calls tying up their lines while they are trying to solve the outage problem."
Elliott noted that since the emergency notification system has gone into effect there have been two power outages, and no problems with the notification process have been reported.
"People are now informed, and they know what they can do," Elliott said. "It makes it easier when people know the procedure."
Anyone with questions on procedures during an outage or comments on the emergency notification should call the Department of Occupational Health and Safety at 831-1435.