COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The University of Missouri tested its emergency communication system on Monday.
It was one of multiple tests the University holds throughout the year to look at various systems put in place to keep the campus safe. The Monday test looked at the system that sends out text and email alerts as well as the University’s ability to handle winter weather.
University spokesman Christian Basi told ABC 17 News that the test tracked where the messages were sent and how many of them had technical errors.
“This one we actually did identify technical issues that need to be fixed and we are going to be able to finish that up and fix it within the next 24 hours,” Basi said.
Despite the technical issue, the University believes the test was a success.
“We were pretty happy with how smooth things went in getting the message out,” Basi said.
However, some students feel that the University should be sending more alerts when things are happening on campus.
“There was a fire alarm that went off at Hudson (Hall on campus) for a while and I never got a text notification about that. I thought that would have been pretty nice to know,” MU freshman Trae Davidson said. “If your building is burning down, even if you’re not there that a pretty nice thing to know about.”
Madison Rendelman, a graduate assistant at the university, added that she wanted the school to be more transparent with its alert system.
“I think they could do a better job at alerting students when things happen. But for the most part, I haven’t had a negative experience so I do feel pretty safe here,” Rendelman said.
Zhengyang Li, a graduate student, was concerned that the University does not notify students when things happen in the neighborhoods surrounding the campus.
“What kind of worries me and what kind of really bothers me is I know there is some shooting cases that happened last year. Like especially during Homecoming Downtown,” Li said. “Many students don’t live on campus many students live in those neighboring areas.”
Basi said the University has to walk a fine line when sending out campus alerts.
“It’s a very delicate balance, because you want to make sure you are sending out notifications that people are paying attention to so if you send out a notification every single time an event occurs people start to ignore that,” Basi said.
Basi also says that there are specific guidelines for when the University can send out an alert.
“If it is on campus it has to be there is an imminent and ongoing threat to the campus. So, if there is a situation where maybe an individual has been assaulted, but the perpetrator has been identified, police were on the scene quickly, we know where that person is we likely aren’t going to send out an alert because the situation is being contained," he said. "However, if the perpetrator is fleeing the scene and running in an unknown direction or a direction into campus then that could be a situation where police alert the community using a MU alert. We call them RAVE alerts.”
“For off-campus situations, we do alert the community at times related to off-campus situations. The key with those is that we first have to know about it and we have to know about it very quickly after it happens.”
Basi added that sometimes the University misses off-campus incidents because other law enforcement agencies are responding. However, he said if they are able to catch it and it’s in an area where a lot of students live, they will send out a notification.
“We would send out a notification through our MU Alert System that would say ‘There have been reports of X happening at this location. This outside law enforcement agency is responding to it. We will not have any further updates on this.’ Because we can’t expect that outside law enforcement to keep us updated while they are working a crime scene,” he said.
Basi said the University tries to keep in contact with outside law enforcement agencies but that can sometimes be difficult while they are also trying to keep track of what is happening on campus.
“The other issue that we have always had is that these things happen within a matter of minutes so by the time an alert goes out sometimes that particular event is already over,” he said.
The university does not require students to sign up for MU Alerts but according to Basi more than 65,000 people have signed up, a number he called a “critical majority.”
“Obviously, that’s a lot of people. Which is great because then, if you didn’t get it, potentially a friend did, someone you're walking next to got it that kind of thing.”
Anyone is able to sign up for MU Alerts even if you are not a current student at the University of Missouri.
Basi believes that students should be proud of the effort that has been made to maintain a safe campus.
“We have people every day checking the mechanisms that keep us safe, whether those are door locks or electronic mechanisms to make sure that everything is working appropriately,” Basi said. “It’s a lot of effort and there is a lot of people behind the scenes that are working to make sure that all the resources on campus are keeping our students our facility our visitors safe.”