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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Alarm tests mark Severe Weather Awareness Week

Alert beacons and desktop notifications were added in 2013.

March 11, 2014

It’s no secret that MU tested its alarm systems March 4.

Even if some students and staff couldn’t hear the outdoor warning sirens, the lecture hall beacons, text and phone messages, emails, desktop notifications, or alerts posted to MU’s Facebook, Twitter, and MU Alert website surely reached them.

According to the MU Alert website, this was the first test of the university’s full emergency alert system with students on campus.

Testing on campus coincided with National Severe Weather Awareness Week, when the National Weather Service conducts its annual testing of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radio system.

MU Police spokesman Brian Weimer said although MU did plan for the test to fall during Severe Weather Awareness Week, the main goal was to run an annual test for safety, especially to test the system’s new components.

“Parts of the system have been in use for many years, but the alert beacons and desktop notifications were added in 2013,” Weimer said.

Wall-mounted Alertus beacons — 245 in all — have been installed across campus by MU’s Division of Information Technology. They are set in locations where cell phones may be banned or have poor reception, including 100-plus-seat auditoriums and gathering areas.

Desktop notifications go out to any computers with MU’s alert software installed, according to the MU Alert website.

Messages from Alertus beacons direct people to the MU Alert website, which is the best place to go for emergency information on campus, Weimer said.

“We’re really trying to get people to visit the website and be informed,” Weimer said. “Always refer to the MU Alert website, don’t go off of someone else’s tweet or Facebook post…we’ve had problems in the past with students sending out false information.”

The testing included all aspects of MU’s alert systems, including the Alertus system, which consists of the beacons and desktop announcements, and the Blackboard Connect system, which sends out the texts, phone messages, emails, and feed to the MU Alert website, MU Facebook and Twitter, and to the Alertus system.

“There will be at least annual testing of this system,” Weimer said.

Weimer said that students and staff can go to mualert.missouri.edu to find out how to opt for emergency text message alerts.

“On that MU Alert website, there is a summary of the university’s emergency plan and information procedures,” Weimer said. “You need to be prepared with a plan of what to do in emergencies.”

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