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Alert device to be tested on campus

Thursday, November 15, 2007 | 7:57 p.m. CST; updated 4:11 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA — A Columbia company will be testing a keychain-sized device on the MU campus next week that could be part of a new emergency alert system for students, faculty and staff.

Purple Tree Technologies will give a 20-minute presentation and then test the device, called an e-Fob, Nov. 20 at MU Police Department headquarters, located at the southwest corner of the Virginia Ave. parking garage on campus.

“The university hasn’t contracted a purchase of the device yet, though they have displayed interest,” said Purple Tree spokesperson Mark Farnen. “This will be the first public test of the product.”

The e-Fob is activated by another Purple Tree technology that is currently patent-pending, the Emergency Alert Response System, or EARS. This can pickup emergency broadcasts and relay them through cell phone towers in areas covered by the alert.

In case of an emergency, the e-Fob is “awakened” and its owner is able to receive the emergency notification. The demonstration on Nov. 20 will also include how the alert system can work with a stationary monitor that could be placed in a dorm, classroom or office.

“It’s an enhancement of other products because there is virtually no delay in signaling,” Farnen said. “500,000 notifications can be sent in 1.5 seconds.”

In April, following the shootings at Virginia Tech, Gov. Matt Blunt created a task force to analyze the effectiveness of campus emergency response systems. The MU System has since forged a partnership with a company in California to begin a system, called InstaCom Campus Alert, that would notify students, faculty and staff about events that could potentially affect their well-being.

According to the web site, at mualert.missouri.edu, after the university initiates an emergency message, students will receive a voicemail, text message and e-mail, in that sequence. Once the student has acknowledged that they have received the notification, the call sequence will end. Students have been encouraged to update their personal information on the MyZou course registration system so that they may receive messages in case of an emergency.

MU Police Chief Jack Watring, who is one of the people authorized to activate the mass-notification system, said the system would be activated after natural disasters and “man-made” situations such as the threat of a gunman.

“The emergency alert system will definitely be beneficial,” Watring said.


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