Kansas University implements mass notification system

Kansas University continues to fine-tune its emergency messaging system.

The system was designed in the wake of mass shootings that have occurred in the U.S. in recent years. It is intended to alert students and staff as quickly as possible about a security problem.

The alerts are issued through a multitiered system that involves e-mail, text messaging, public address, voice mail and Web pages.

"The university will use its home page as a centralized location for information updates," KU spokeswoman Jill Jess said. "The university also has established protocols to use local media to help inform the public in the event of an ongoing crisis."

In March, KU tested its public-address speakers. Some on campus heard them, and some did not. KU also tested its systems last year by issuing periodic weather alerts. At that time, the speakers covered a little more than 60 percent of the campus. That has since been boosted to about 70 percent, Jess said.

The speakers are in 60 buildings, including a majority of the classroom buildings and most large gathering areas. Watson Library and the Anderson Family Football Complex were added early in the summer.

"Work is continuing to add buildings to the system," Jess said.

The e-mail alerts reach about 33,000 students who have KU e-mail accounts. Voice mail alerts are received by faculty and staff with voice mail equipped phones.

More than 13,000 students have signed up for the text-messaging system at last count, Jess said.

"We encourage everyone to sign up," she said. "If they are already signed up, we ask that they please take a minute to confirm their information is still correct, primarily if they've changed cell phone numbers."

To sign up or check information visit www.sa.ku.edu.

KU has spent nearly $650,000 on the emergency notification system, including $32,500 for the text messaging contract and more than $600,000 for the public address system.

In addition to the emergency alerts, the campus also has its own police and security unit. KU officers routinely patrol and investigate complaints. They are aided by security cameras placed in various areas.

"Most of them are covering the parking lots around housing areas," said Ralph Oliver, KU chief of police. He declined to say how many cameras are in place for security reasons.

Plans are to add cameras to the large parking area south of Robinson Gym, to the area in front of the Student Recreation Fitness Center and to the newly constructed parking lots west of the stadium as well as certain research areas.

"The cameras have only been in place a couple of years, and we really need more data to say for certain how effective they are, but we do believe they are having a positive effect and are contributing to the continued decrease in reported crime on campus," Oliver said.

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