Salsa-DR Working Group
December 7, 2007
Don McLeod, Cornell University (chair)
Mike Gill, National Library of Medicine
Skye Hagen, Eastern Washington Univesity
Joe St. Sauver, Internet2/University of Oregon
Walter Patruska, University of San Francisco
Norma Jean Loftus, NCI Group
Rodney Petersen, EDUCAUSE
Steve Olshansky, Internet2
Dean Woodbeck, Internet2 (scribe)
**Cornell Experience with Emergency Messaging**
Don McLeod provided an update on Cornell's test of a third-party emergency messaging system. The university had an internally-built email emergency messaging system, which bypasses normal message protocols and provided ways to deliver bulk email on campus.
In light of the Virginia Tech incident, Cornell wanted to develop message delivery systems other than email. The goal was to find voice and text message systems that would get a message out in less than 15 minutes. Cornell built a separate directory, with people signing up for the service and providing contact information, including cell phone numbers. In retrospect, setting up a separate directory may have been a mistake.
Once the directory was populated, the university ran some tests with third-party systems. Some lessons learned include: 1) make sure to coordinate with any existing emergency response group, 2) if there is an outside provider, that company to work with local technical people early on.
With Cornell’s location in a relatively rural area, there is not sufficient population to cause local cell phone providers to put in the types of infrastructures normal in urban areas. There are a limited number of providers and towers, which can slow things down. This reinforces the need for third-party providers and university staff members to work together early on.
Cornell ended up enhancing the in-house product for sending bulk emails and using external companies for voice and text. They can get a mass email out in less than 15 minutes and voice mail in a half-hour (although most recipients receive the voice mail within minutes).
**Eastern Washington Experience with Emergency Messaging**
Eastern Washington has a text-only emergency message system (based on cell phone), but hasn’t done any testing. An estimated 30 percent of the university constituency have registered for the service. With only a few local cell phone towers, there is the potential for a system overload. Eastern Washington has developed agreements with local telephone providers, but the messages are more along the lines of “we’re closed because of snow.”
A question was raised concerning whether third-party providers would institute any sort of priority system for emergency messages. Otherwise, there is the risk of being treated as text message spammers. An example is Sprint, which will only deal with organizations with which they have a trust agreement. Others sending what is considered bulk messaging are put in the back seat.
There is some information on the federal government’s wireless priority service at http://wps.ncs.gov/.
**Emergency Response Staffing and Training**
Don reported on Cornell’s efforts to define its various response mechanisms; specifically which staff would be designated as providing a critical service, which means having to be on campus during an emergency. This may differ depending on the situation (such as winter emergencies vs. a pandemic situation). For example, in the IT area, only the NOC staff will be needed in person. Those staff members, and other designated staff, also are required to have two methods for communications (such as a land line and cell phone, for example) and the university pays for those.
Don will post information about this and other considerations on the DR wiki. The university Is looking at Adobe Connect, for example, as a way to provide group work if people are at home. They are also writing this type of information into job descriptions.
Cornell has also begun using NIMS (National Incident Management System) training outlined by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). The training is defined and outlined at the FEMA website: www.fema.gov/emergency/nims/nims_training.shtm. At Cornell, the president and senior management must certify that they have completed this training. At the University of San Francisco, the public safety force and key facilities engineers must participate in the NIMS training.
Eastern Washintgon uses the NIMS protocol and conducted a an exercise simulating another eruption of Mt. St. Helen’s. As decisions were made, the scenario kept changing (for example, the eruption occurred, but then earthquakes follwed. An 11-story residence hall began to lean toward the cafeteria). This was both eye-opening and valuable.
Joe St. Sauver suggested water and flood control as a topic of interest for future calls. Traditionally, data centers have been located in basements and/or have equipment below the floor. He will post a note to the email list about this topic.
**Meetings and Future Calls**
Joe St. Sauver asked if there is interest in holding a working group meeting at the Winter 2008 ESCC/Internet2 Joint Techs Workshop, January 20-24 in Honolulu. www.hawaii.edu/tip2008/ Those planning to attend are asked to respond to the email list and, if there is enough interest, a meeting will be scheduled.
**Next Call January 11, 2008, 1:00 p.m. EST**
With the current call schedule of every four weeks, the next call would fall on Friday, Jan. 4. Given the proximity to the holidays, it was agreed to move the call by a week to January 11.