COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) – A new system of beacons and a computer software program are being installed at the University of Missouri to help quickly get the word out in case of emergencies, a university official said.

About 225 beacons are being installed in high-traffic areas. They use strobes and sounds to get people’s attention, and then alert messages will be displayed on a screen, university spokesman Christian Basi said.

The university is in the process of wiring buildings and getting everything prepared so the beacons can be installed, The Columbia Daily Tribune reported. The project will cost about $436,750, Basi said.

The university also has been working on a program that will allow specific administrators to take over computer screens to display alert messages, said Terry Robb, director of information technology.

“We will use our Blackboard mass notification system to write the message that goes to phones, and we have a special channel that we’re going to configure that will force the message we write in Blackboard to be posted to Alertus notification,” Robb said.

Both systems are provided by Alertus Technologies and send messages created through the university’s new mass alert provider, BlackBoard Connect.

The messages will be sent to university-owned computers that are typically used by faculty and staff. The technology department is working on a free download for students who want to add the program to their computers, Robb said. It also hopes to eventually be able to override the cable system so televisions around campus could display messages.

Currently, campus computers can only be overridden by Robb, another information technology department employee, the campus police chief, the head of Environmental Health and Safety, and the head of Campus Facilities.

Both alert systems should be ready within the next month, Robb said.


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