Goals of prevention and preparedness drive Sept. 27 safety drill

The annual test of Penn’s Emergency Notification System will be accompanied by a fair promoting safety programs offered across campus.

People walking in autumn outside in the late afternoon sun along a tree-lined walkway on Penn's campus
Image: Eric Sucar

At noon on Friday, Sept.27, the Division of Public Safety (DPS) will run a campus-wide simultaneous test of the UPennAlert Emergency Notification System and Penn Siren Outdoor System (PennSOS) as part of a Shelter-in-Place Awareness Drill. The 15-second siren, delivered via 27 PennSOS speakers, will be followed by a pre-recorded voice message and then a live voice message, both indicating this is an exercise.

Moments before the siren sounds, mobile phones will start to buzz, as registered members of the UPennAlert Emergency Notification System receive SMS text messages or emails notifying them that the message is only a test and that no additional action is required.

The exercise and test are part of an Emergency Preparedness Safety Fair to be held on College Green on Friday, Sept. 27, between noon and 3 p.m.

“Keeping students, faculty, and staff safe in an emergency means educating them in advance,” says Maureen Rush, vice president for the Division of Public Safety and superintendent of the Penn Police. “The UPennAlert is the first line of communication we have in notifying the Penn community of an emergency impacting the campus, and PennSOS alerts the community to an ongoing eminent emergency, such as a severe weather condition or other high-level incident, that might be occurring on campus.

“Simple and decisive actions taken in response to an evolving emergency can mean the difference between serious injury and staying safe. We want everyone to be PennReady, to register for UPennAlert, to know how and when to respond, and to make a personal safety plan. In any situation, the alert has directions for action and a direct link to the DPS website for more information about the incident.”

Every year, DPS partners with the Office of Information Systems and Computing to conduct the test, as required by the Philadelphia Fire Code and the federal Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act. PennSOS is used to alert people to a major emergency and advise them to evacuate, lockdown, or shelter in place. A video produced by DPS defines these actions and what to do.

The Emergency Preparedness Safety Fair to follow these alerts will highlight DPS services and campus-wide efforts related to preparedness, wellness, transit, fire safety, first aid, CPR, AED, Penn Guardian, Walking Escort Services, and more. Demonstrations by Penn’s student-led Medical Emergency Response Team and the Penn Vet Working Dog Center will be on hand for demonstrations, and firehouse chili and other refreshments will be served.

Information on Penn’s safety services is also found on the DPS website.

Here is a snapshot of a few of the services and safety and wellness initiatives available at Penn:

UPennAlert System—Provides notifications and information during an emergency occurring in the Penn and the surrounding University City area through text and email via personal electronic devices, the Penn SOS siren and public address systems, and digital displays. The Public Safety website then acts as a bulletin board to provide additional detailed information on the ongoing emergency.

PennGuardian—a free smartphone application available to anyone with a Penn email address allowing the user’s cell phone to rapidly provide personal information and GPS coordinates to the DPS during an emergency.

Walking Escort Services—Uniformed Allied Universal public safety officers provide walking escorts to all campus locations 24/7, 365 days a year, between 30th and 43rd streets and Market Street to Baltimore Avenue.

HELP Line—A 24/7 phone number—215-898-HELP (4357)—for Penn community seeking time-sensitive referrals for Penn’s resources for health and wellness.

Traffic Advisories—Periodic traffic advisories for the University City area.

Self Defense Courses—A set schedule of courses is available free of charge to Penn affiliates.

PennRides on Request—As part of a cadre of Penn Transit Services (free with a PennCard) the new PennRides on Request mobile application is an on-demand evening shuttle service that runs Monday-Sunday, 6 p.m.-3 a.m. with limited early-morning service 3-7 a.m.