DoIT tests emergency alert system

About half the people texted responded within the hour.
The Division of Information Technology texted students, faculty and staff Thursday to test MU's emergency mass notification system. Students received three of these messages as a result of an error from DoIT.

MU tested its emergency mass notification system at 2:50 p.m. Thursday, sending text messages to students, faculty and staff who had registered their cell phone numbers with the system.

Division of Information Technology Director Terry Robb said the emergency notification system sent texts to 22,810 recipients, 12,103 of whom confirmed the message within an hour. The fraction of people who replied before 3:50 p.m. translated to 53 percent, meeting DoIT's goal of a 50 percent response rate.

Robb said the number of confirmations within the first hour of the test is the key statistic, but DoIT had received 527 late responses by approximately 4:30 p.m.

"It's a one-hour test, but the number of confirmations will grow as people confirm throughout the night," Robb said.

Students, faculty and staff who had registered with the emergency notification system received three texts, rather than one, as a result of an error from DoIT, Robb said.

"When I started the alert I got a response from the vendor that made it look like the message wasn't sending to all students, so I stopped the alert," Robb said. "When I started sending another alert, two were accidentally sent. It was just an error on my part."

MU implemented the emergency mass notification system in November 2007. In the event of an emergency, the system would activate a sequence of alerts. The first would be a text message sent to student, faculty and staff cell phones. The second alert would be an e-mail.

Thursday's test specifically focused on the text message portion, though the e-mail alert would work similarly, giving students a confirmation hyperlink.

MU spokesman Christian Basi said the university's goal is to test the text message alert once a semester.

"That is the plan for right now, but that may change," Basi said. "We're trying, though, to make this a regular thing."

The alert system is provided by the National Notification Network, with which the university has held a contract since August 2007. The system allows certain organizations, including the MU Police Department, Campus Facilities, the MU News Bureau, Environmental Health and Safety and DoIT, to phone into the system and activate the alert.

Students can register their cell phone and e-mail contact information with the emergency notification system through their myZou accounts.

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