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Campus hilltop residences evacuated

When an electrical transformer near the hilltop apartments threatened to overload, an emergency notice was sent out to the campus community for the first time since the new system was implemented in 2007.

The message- which was delivered through e-mail, text and phone/voicemail – said that all four of the endangered residences must be evacuated, Underwood Road would be closed and cars in the area should be moved to Richards Gate.

The incident happened on Tuesday, Feb. 26. Renee Jadushlever, vice president for Operations, said that Karen Maggio, associate vice president for Campus Planning and Facilities, and Michael Lopez, director of Public Safety, called to inform her.

“I was outside at the time, so I ran to the office of one of the IT staff to use their computer,” said Jadushlever, in an e-mail interview.

She said that she sent out the message at 10:53 a.m., which was only six minutes after she learned of the situation.
Mills officials entered the residences of Underwood Hall, Stephenson House, Springs House and Danforth House to evacuate students.

Niviece Robinson, assistant director of Public Safety, said it took grounds, maintenance and Public Safety crews 25- 30 minutes to completely clear the area. Extra officers happened to be on campus in preparation for the Board of Trustees meetings, she said.

Staff did not enter student rooms. One student, a sophomore who wished to remain anonymous, said she was sleeping at the time, and if she hadn’t had her cell phone near her, she wouldn’t have woken up.
“The administration needs to check every room in an apartment,” she said. “If they do not, someone may end up still in the building.”

HMDS called apartment phone lines as a backup to those who had not yet registered for the emergency notification service. “Some people think that it automatically goes to everybody on campus,” said Robinson, “but we don’t yet have those capabilities.”

Jadushlever said that it is more important to have their cell phones than campus landline numbers, which take longer to deliver messages given the number of phone lines.

“We have 72 trunks and 1600 phone numbers, so the delivery of those messages takes about 20 minutes,” she said.

“That is why it is imperative that the College have individual cell phone numbers so that we can provide more instantaneous notification in the event of an emergency,” said Jadushlever.

The student said her apartment phone did not ring until she was already out of the building. A second message came about four hours later, allowing students to safely return.

In the interim, power was cut from the transformer, and PG&E was notified. A new transformer was ordered for replacement at a later date.

“There were absolutely no complications in using the system during this emergency. 96.6 percent of the attempts to contact people were delivered,” Jadushlever said.
There had been two tests of the system, one last semester, in Fall 2007, and one a few weeks into this semester.

The Mills Emergency Notification system is powered by Connect-Ed, a service administered by the NTI group, which provides communication services to secondary schools, institutions of higher education, municipalities, and government agencies.