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MU alert system to be tested Thursday

Wednesday, September 7, 2011 | 5:43 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — MU hopes students, faculty and staff will respond to a mass emergency test via text message at 2:50 p.m. Thursday.

The text message, meant to practice notifying the university community in case of emergency, will be sent to everyone who has registered their phone number on either myZou or myHR. In addition to the text message, the same emergency alert will be sent to university email accounts, according to a MU News Bureau press release.

Returning students may remember the emergency alert system when it was used during the February snowstorm. The system can also be used for other emergency situations.

“(The purpose is) to let faculty, staff and students know of danger on campus to which they need to respond — whether it’s a tornado, gunman or gas leak, chemical spills, that kind of thing,” said division of IT spokesman Terry Robb.

Unlike some emergency alerts of the past, Thursday’s notification will ask recipients to confirm the message by texting back, according to the press release.

Robb said MU is interested in text delivery speed and the percentage of successful deliveries.

"We also want to make sure cellphone companies don’t block massive number of texts coming at them from the emergency system,” Robb said. “If you respond to a text, we will see your words to verify that you did receive the message.”

While staff members can initiate the emergency messages, certain events such as tornado warnings are capable of automatically sending alerts, such as when the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning, Robb said.

MU hopes to encourage more students to opt into the text message notifications. Project specialist for administrative services and MU alert, Katie Whitman, is unsure of the exact number of current text message participants but is positive that not everyone participates.

“We encourage people to sign up; we know that everyone hasn’t,” Whitman said. “MU Alert has its own website where everyone is directed to go to get directions to sign up either through myZou or myHR.”

In efforts to encourage students to sign up for the text alerts MU plans to send postcards to undergraduate parents soon, Whitman said.

It also plans to provide emergency cards for students to place in their wallets. These cards will have the MU Alert system website, as well as contact information for emergency centers on campus such as the health center, poison control, University Hospital, the crisis line and campus facilities, Whitman said.

 

 

 


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