Campus safety drills prepare Penn for crises

Natural disasters have been making local headlines in recent days —hurricanes, floods, mudslides and even an earthquake right here in Philadelphia. So what should the Penn community do when there is a campus emergency?

In the event of a crisis, natural or manmade, Penn’s Division of Public Safety (DPS) will activate the UPennAlert Emergency Notification System, which allows the University to quickly provide more than 55,000 campus community members with critical information through text messages, voice mails, emails, outdoor sirens, the DPS website and other digital displays.

On Thursday, Sept. 22, at 2:55 p.m., DPS will conduct its annual test of the UPennAlert system, along with a campus-wide Shelter-in-Place Awareness Drill. As part of the drills, Penn’s Siren Outdoor System (Penn SOS), comprised of 15 outdoor speakers, also will transmit a 15-second siren and emergency voice messages outdoors.

“The effectiveness of the UPennAlert system is dependent upon our faculty and staff registering and providing up-to-date contact information,” says Maureen S. Rush, vice president for public safety. 

Faculty and staff can update their contact information through the Penn Directory online by clicking “update directory listings” and logging in with their PennKey. They can also access U@Penn directly by visiting, clicking on “my directory information” under “Personal Resources, Health & Welfare” and logging in with their PennKey.

Rush also advises that, in an actual emergency, faculty and staff should know the location of their building’s Shelter Area.

“This information is located on Emergency Preparedness bulletins that are posted in every Penn-owned building,” she says. “They are typically located on the first floor near or on all elevators, foyers or other public areas.”

In addition to conducting the campus safety drills, DPS and the Philadelphia Fire Department will host a Fire Safety and Emergency Preparedness Day, Sept. 22 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Representatives from the Philadelphia Fire Department and DPS’s Fire and Emergency Services will be stationed at intersections across campus, distributing fire safety literature and answering questions. Also, the city fire department’s Fire Safety Trailer, used to promote home fire safety awareness, will be on College Green, open for tours by faculty, staff and visitors.