• Tests of our emergency notification system will now happen monthly
  • Follow these instructions to ensure the WatSAFE app does not offload from your phone

Dear UWaterloo community,

I’m writing today with an interim update on the University’s plans for testing and using our emergency alert app, WatSAFE.\

Our initial assessment of the emergency response on June 28 has confirmed that the problems we experienced with alerts that day were not with the app itself. We have worked closely with the app vendor and confirmed that it is an effective platform when we use it correctly.

We are continuing deeper assessments of our overall emergency response protocols and communications procedures, and we will continue to assess opportunities for improvement. We are evaluating a range of channels that we can use to communicate with you during an emergency.
In the meantime, we have identified and implemented improvements to our processes and procedures to make sure we use WatSAFE appropriately to share emergency and safety information.
One of the key steps we have implemented is expanded access to WatSAFE and detailed training for certain employee groups to ensure that notifications are sent quickly. We recently used WatSAFE to share information about a safety issue on campus, and we will continue to send safety information to you through the app.

Take action now to make sure WatSAFE doesn’t offload from your device

As part of our review, we identified a problem with WatSAFE offloading on many iOS phones or hibernating on Android devices. After a period of inactivity, operating systems will automatically put apps in a hibernation state, making it unable to deliver push notifications.

This is common across app providers, and we have worked with the WatSAFE provider to address this issue.

To make sure that you are able to receive safety alerts, make sure you have the WatSAFE app downloaded to your device. Once you have it installed, or have confirmed it is not offloaded, please follow the steps to disable the app offloading/hibernation settings on both iOS and Android devices.  

You’ll see more test alerts, more often

To help ensure the app stays active, and to ensure our people remain familiar with how to use WatSAFE, we will also be moving to a monthly testing cycle for our emergency notification system. You should see push notifications on your phone when we test the system, as well as some other alerts on other parts of our emergency notification system, such as digital display screens, and on network-managed computers.

Monthly testing will start in October. If you have any questions or concerns about this process, please reach out to the IST team.

We’re grateful for your attention to the actions you need to take to make sure you can receive WatSAFE alerts. Teams across the University continue to work on a range of improvements to our emergency response protocols, and we remain committed to keeping you informed on our progress. You can expect to hear more about our reviews and actions in the coming months.
Jacinda Reitsma
Vice-President, Administration and Finance
Office of the Vice-President, Administration and Finance

2023 communications to graduate students