MU students can sleep a little sounder come fall 2013, thanks to recent updates in campus safety.
Since July, the university has installed new emergency beacons in lecture halls, classrooms and hallways, as well as administration buildings.
The beacons include sirens, lights, visible display screens with scrolling typed messages and a speaker to broadcast the alert. In an emergency event, the beacons’ lights will flash and the message will be announced.
The system that connects the beacons to the mass notification system, Alertus, also causes computer screens in labs and offices around campus to display emergency messages.
“Currently we have 225 locations that we’re installing them in, and they’re primarily in areas where large groups of people would be congregating,” Campus Facilities spokeswoman Karlan Seville said.
The beacons are just another way to keep students, faculty and staff safe, she said.
“It’s just one more way to alert students and others on campus that there is a campus emergency, whether it’s weather or a critical emergency of some kind,” Seville said. “These beacons are to make people visually aware.”
Once the beacons are in place, MU will also connect them to the current emergency mass notification system, said Terry Robb, Division of IT marketing and strategic planning director.
“If there was a tornado warning, for example, it would automatically send to the beacons,” Robb said. “Otherwise somebody would have to log onto the beacon system and send it.”
The current notification system includes Facebook posts, Tweets, mass emails and mass texts to students, parents and faculty who sign up for the MU Alert system.
The notification system is also undergoing its own revamping.
In addition to Alertus, Seville said that the university recently purchased a new system called Blackboard Connect, which will control all mass notifications except email, which is through Outlook.
“Professors and students use the technology program called Blackboard, an educational technology, in classrooms,” Seville said. “Blackboard Connect is a part of the BlackBoard company, and it allows us to send all the different messages all from one system.”
MU tested the new emergency notification system a few weeks ago during the summer session.
The annual subscription cost for the notification system is $76,812 for all four UM System campuses combined.
The beacon installation, which is being funded by Campus Facilities, is estimated at $90,000, with the beacons themselves totaling $200,000.
Seville said that upgrading the system is worth the expenses.
“It is important to provide information about campus emergencies in as many ways as possible and in as many areas as possible,” she said. “This device … is meant to be installed in heavily populated areas where people might not have access to a text, email, a computer monitor message, social media or other media at that moment.”
MU Spokesman Christian Basi agreed and encouraged students, if they haven’t, to sign up for the mass notification system at mualert.missouri.edu.
“Safety on this campus is the number one priority,” Basi said. “We will continue to assess the situation as quickly as we can and then determine which tools we should use in the event of any kind of situation where we feel the campus needs to be notified.”