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Ref: California university creates new disaster communication system for students, faculty and staff


The Daily Californian
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UC Berkeley Launches System to Track People in Event of Disaster


BY Sarah Kamshoshy
Contribution Writer
Monday, March 5, 2007

UC Berkeley officials launched a new communication system last Wednesday to help inform people of how students, faculty and staff are doing in the event of a disaster.
The People Locator system acts as an online bulletin board, as students can log on using a CalNet ID and report on their whereabouts and health in the event of a disaster.

The system allows the university to account for students collectively, and parents and friends do not need any identification to log onto the system.

“The most important aspect of recovery from any disaster is communication,” said Shelton Waggener, the associate vice chancellor of information technology and campus chief information officer. “It’s a much faster approach than individually contacting each person one at a time.”

The program is based on the work of John Radke, a UC Berkeley associate professor of landscape architecture and environmental planning who worked on a similar system to help Hurricane Katrina victims and their families reach each other after the chaos, said Tom Klatt, the manager of the campus’ Office of Emergency Preparedness.

“With Hurricane Katrina, people were separated from each other, families were torn apart,” said Treacy Malloy, a senior preparedness analyst with the Office of Emergency Preparedness. “People Locator is a self-reporting mechanism so people can find each other again.”

Accessibility to the program requires use of the Internet, which could be a problem should local servers go down during an emergency, program developers said.

However, creators are looking to ensure that students will be able to connect, as one option may be to use dial-up modems, said application developer Tom O’Brien, a programmer with the Office of Student Affairs.

While the program is largely designed to deal with earthquake scenarios, the developers also hope to evolve the system for use in other types of emergencies, Waggener said.

Other campuses have been waiting for UC Berkeley to release and test the system before attempting People Locator systems of their own, O’Brien said.



Contact Sarah Kamshoshy at skamshoshy@dailycal.org

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