In August 2007, the University of Missouri began MU Alert, the campus’s emergency mass notification system. It is designed to alert the MU community of a campus threat or unusual situation via mass email, text, landline telephone notification and Twitter, as well as through Facebook posts and alerts on the MU Alert website.
The program was put in place in response to the spring 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech University that killed 32 people and ended with the suicide of the shooter.
Since installation, MU Alert has been used on several occasions. Last February, the system was used to alert the MU community of campus closings due to blizzard conditions.
Administrators encourage staff, faculty and students to keep their contact information, such as cell phone and text numbers, updated with MU Alert at mualert.missouri.edu.
MU continues to explore further ways of notification. There is a plan, for example, to install Alert Beacons on building walls.
The wall devices are the size of a thermostat and, in an emergency, flash a strobe, emit a siren and display a notification message.
About 225 units will be installed initially, with more installed in the future depending on funding, said Karlan Seville, the Campus Facilities communications manager.
The reason for the beacons is that emails, cell phones and landline telephones aren’t always accessible in buildings. Reception for cell phones can be spotty, and instructors often ask students to silence their phones during classes; staff and faculty many times turn their cell phones off during the day. The beacons, manufactured by Alertus in Beltsville, Md., will fill this emergency communication gap, Seville said.
“We always look for new ways to keep the MU community aware of an emergency,” she said.
MU police also do their part to help employees and students remain safe.
One of its programs is Rape Aggression Defense (RAD), a self-defense program for women, consisting of both classroom study and one-on-one practice.
Participants receive a manual that teaches general safety and defense techniques, said Capt. Brian Weimer, a public information officer at MUPD.
Women learn hands-on defense skills by pairing up with other students and practicing with a certified instructor, Weimer said.
Classes’ locations vary based on the class size or special occasions. Each class has an average of 10 students.
RAD also offers the program for men. MUPD Lt. April Colvin described this course as teaching men “how to de-escalate situations to avoid physical confrontations as well as how to defend against physical aggression if de-escalation does not work or is not an option.”
A third RAD class is the Citizens’ Response to Active Threats. This class is for situations when there is an active shooter or other emergency threat. Because of the time limit for each class, these courses don’t teach self-defense.
“RAD is unique because of the classroom and simulation exercises,” Colvin said.
All the RAD classes are free to the MU community. For more information, call MUPD at 882-7201.
— JeongAn Choi and Mark Barna