When things went wrong at UNO on Wednesday, preparation for them went right. A day after a two-alarm fire took the top off a dormitory building on the south campus, officials said their student notification system worked.
The scene was threatening but no students were injured in the blaze. The notification system is designed to foster that kind of outcome. Students received email and text messages warning them about the campus fire; information that was as close as their cell phones.
A day after the fire, Ian Brady was on the ice. A freshman on the hockey team, Ian was in his first floor apartment when the fire started. A computer message told him what to do.
Ian said, “We had to go to the field house, right by the clubhouse, right by our dorm; sign our names; make sure we had, we were accounted for. And then later we heard everyone was accounted for. Chancellor came by to tell us we’re lucky that everyone is OK.”
Micheala Keck was on the other side of campus and the email system told her to stay there.
The freshman said, “It’s a great way to notify all students. They're very quick with it and they get the notifications out right away like the fire yesterday, students were notified to stay off south campus around the dorms. Thought it was very safe for them to do that.”
All students were notified by email or text. The same system also allowed administrators to conduct a head count to make sure everyone was safe and it didn’t take long, “I think maybe within an hour-and-a-half,” said UNO’s Dan Shipp. “I think some of that had to do with the fact that we were trying to get eyes on students. If they were at work we were leaving messages but we didn’t want to assume somebody was OK. We were sending people to where they work to make sure they were OK and accounted for in person.”
There are more than 15,000 students at UNO. Forty-three lived in the residence hall that burned.
The email and text system are just part of campus life now. At the beginning of every school year it is explained so everyone is on the same page in case there is a campus emergency.