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TAMU Webmaster's Blog

Information and insight from the A&M Webmasters


Emergency Site – Now Includes Maps

During an emergency situation, we are often so busy following our procedures for getting content posted that we miss some important features.  A case of not seeing the forest for the trees.  Sometimes it takes being away from the action to look at the site differently — as a user instead of as an administrator — and see what is obviously lacking.  In the case of the emergency site, this sort of insight revealed one weakness — there is no sense of location on the page to show where the emergency is taking place.

Even those of us who have been here for many years can’t necessarily remember where every building is located on campus.  We have therefore integrated a mapping system into the emergency site, allowing us to easily post a map of the affected building and area of campus.

Keeping in mind the nature of the site and our desire to keep download time minimized, we decided to go with an automated embed from Google Maps rather than taking a screen shot and embedding a static image.  This also makes administering the site easier because the user doesn’t have to open screen-shot software, edit the image, and upload it to a server.  Geolocation information is used instead.  Emergency staff can locate the part of campus that they want to highlight on Aggie Maps.  Right mouse-clicking will then pull up the longitude and latitude coordinates.  This information can then simply be copied into an input box that has been created with Cascade.  From there the system writes out the code into the page to embed the map.  The map is also clickable so that users can get a broader range of area and zoom in and out as desired.

Not every event, of course, will need to display location information.  When such information is available, though, it is now a simple glance away, along with the rest of the event information, on the emergency web site.

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012 Emergency No Comments

Emergency Publication Case Study

I am constantly reminded by colleagues in the office that we are in the Division of Marketing and so we should be more vocal about the things that we are doing.  So, while we have already discussed on this blog how we have moved to the automatic publication of Code Maroon messages, we have now also written up a case study and submitted it to Hannon Hill, our content management system vendor, for publication.

This is an important topic that now affects pretty much every university in the country.  I am proud of the solution that we came up with and hope that it benefits others down the road.

Monday, November 26th, 2012 Emergency No Comments

Post-Incident Analytics

In a “you can’t make up stuff like this” moment, we had the largest emergency situation that campus has had since Bonfire occur the day after we implemented the automatic posting of Code Maroon alerts.  The campus evacuation caused by the bomb threat meant that we had to leave the office along with everyone else, so there was no one who could have made real-time manual posts as the alerts were issued.  I am happy to say that the system worked perfectly and exactly as expected.  That being said, we do still have some tweaks to make. The event exposed a few issues that nobody had counted on in terms of deactivated alerts, but that should be a relatively easy fix.

The event, understandably, drew more web traffic than we are used to.  Today’s traffic generated 166.500 page views to today, with a spike obviously coming starting 11:30 and winding up at about 5:00.  The 12:00 peak had 36,775 page views in that hour. In context, that is an average weekend entire day. A good weekday will be ~65,000 to 75,000 so we more than doubled that.

Code Maroon messages directed people directly to, so as expected the emergency server took a lot more hits than itself.  It received over 235,000 hits Friday, with the 11:00 – 12:00 peaking coming in at about 85,000  There were 151,261 unique visitors, so we generated considerable exposure.  Of note, over 1/3 of traffic came from mobile devices.

Our thanks to the CIS team who kept the services alive and running despite the increased traffic.

Monday, October 22nd, 2012 Emergency 2 Comments