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Registration numbers low for UM emergency notification system

Thursday, January 10, 2008 | 6:00 p.m. CST; updated 1:27 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

9,000 people at MU have signed up for the University of Missouri System’s emergency notification system. An article on Friday mistakenly attributed that number to the entire system. Also, a registration table will be available at MU’s Brady Commons on Jan. 16-25. The article misidentified the dates.

COLUMBIA — The emergency notification system for the University of Missouri System has been up and running for a month, but so far students, faculty and staff have not been flocking to sign up.

The system sent out e-mails in early November to the 90,000 people on all four of its campuses and the healthcare system encouraging them register. Since then, 9,000 people have done so at MU, said Terry Robb, director of Information Technology for the UM System.

In an emergency

What do you mean by “emergency”? Here are the three categories that will be used for the UM System’s emergency alert system. NATURAL: Any natural disaster that threatens the health and safety of UM faculty, staff or students HUMAN: This includes on-campus violence and all kinds of terrorism TECHNOLOGICAL: Any disruption that affects the campus services. If the event only affects a particular group of people, IT can choose to only notify that group. How will people be notified? When notification is started, the system will try to reach each person through a preferred method, which the person chose during registration. If unsuccessful, or if there is no preference, the UM System’s Department of Information Technology will move down the following list of contact methods: - cell phone - text message - e-mail - home telephone - pager - business phone Depending on the severity of the emergency, they may cycle through the list more than once.


Robb said he thinks a lot of people haven’t signed up because of procrastination, but he has plans to change that. Anyone who has signed up since November will be entered into a raffle.

“We’re going to set up a table in Brady (Commons) and anyone who signs up will be eligible to win prizes,” Robb said.

The table will be on the MU campus from Jan. 16-25 but specific prizes have yet to be decided.

The ID card office in University Bookstore will also make the service easily available by asking everyone getting a new card if they want to update their contact information, Robb said.

The Missourian reported in September that the Instacom Campus Alert system was to be installed and tested in October and be fully operational by mid-December. The installation finished Dec. 3, Robb said. A small test was conducted in late November.

The alert system notified subscribers by text and voicemail messages, who were asked to respond immediately. All the participants were reached and most responses came within seven minutes, Robb said.

“We tested ourselves,” Robb said. “We notified 267 people of the test message in the Division of IT.”

Robb also said the department can quickly notify everyone of a campus emergency through the system’s e-mail network. He said the system also has the business phone numbers of most faculty, as well as some of their home and pager numbers.

The alert system has also been tested and is operational on three of the other UM system campuses. The St. Louis campus is the one exception.

Bob Samples, UMSL’s director of communications, said their progress has been delayed because they don’t use the same online student information center as the other campuses.

At MU, for example, students with access to the online information center, called MyZou, can register for emergency notification by updating their contact information on the Web site.

Samples said UMSL plans to have students register their information on a separate Web site provided by 3n, creators of the Instacom system.

3n, which is based in California, provides mass notification services to institutions nationwide, but the UM System is the largest school to its alert system. Virginia Tech also chose to install Instacom, after 33 students and faculty were killed in an April 2007 shooting.

Robb said other sign-up efforts will include advertising in student papers and sending card mailers to dorms and offices on campus, although students living off-campus will not receive them.

A campus-wide test has been tentatively planned for the upcoming semester, Robb said, but no final date has been set.

Because the system has never been needed, it is difficult to predict how an emergency situation would actually play out.

Robb said, however, that the entire campus and healthcare system could be alerted to a danger within four hours. For smaller emergencies, such as those that affect a group of a few hundred people, Robb said notification could be complete within one hour.

Capt. Brian Weimer of the MU Police Department also said the department would provide law enforcement in campus emergencies, but that their degree of involvement would depend on the severity of the situation.


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