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March 4, 2009
Northwest plans to test its Bearcat Alert emergency text messaging system during a statewide tornado and severe weather drill scheduled for approximately 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 10.
The test will also involve other University notification platforms, including the Simplex alarm and public address system.
Northwest Health and Safety Manager Scott Walk said the Bearcat Alert system has grown steadily over the past year to include 1,750 subscribers. Members of the University community who voluntarily subscribe to Bearcat Alert receive e-text cell phone messages from Campus Safety officials containing critical, timely information in the event of an emergency or threat to health and safety.
Northwest serves approximately 6,800 undergraduate and graduate students, just over 2,300 of whom live on the Maryville campus. It employs 758 faculty and staff.
The Bearcat Alert system has been successfully tested a number of times and was activated in mid-December 2008 when ice and severe weather forced the University to close its offices for a day and a half the week after final exams. Though few students remained on campus, subscribed students, faculty and staff received the weather-related closing message, and University officials reported that the system functioned in an effective manner.
"Signing up for Bearcat Alert text messages allows students, faculty and staff to stay informed when an emergency occurs," Walk said. "We continue to encourage all members of the University community who use cell phones to register for this service."
Anyone wishing to join the system must have a Northwest Internet account. The only cost is what users' cell phone plans dictate for normal text messages.
To register, go to the Northwest homepage ( www.nwmissouri.edu ) and click on the link at the bottom of the screen that reads "Bearcat Alert" in small, white letters. This link will direct users to an information page with instructions for receiving the service. Signing up requires logging on to your myNorthwest portal account.
Anyone with questions, or who experiences difficulty in signing up, should e-mail Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Walk emphasized that, excluding periodic tests, Bearcat Alert messages are sent only in the event of emergencies, such as University closings, immediate threats to safety, imminent or ongoing violence, severe weather and other dangerous situations. The system is not used for advertising or marketing or to convey routine information about University news and events.
Along with its text-messaging capability, Walk said Northwest maintains additional emergency notification resources, including the Simplex system that broadcasts loudspeaker alerts inside campus buildings during severe weather and other emergencies. The University also uses mass e-mails, its homepage and KXCV/KRNW public radio (90.5 and 88.9 FM) to communicate during a crisis.
"It all goes back to redundancy," Walk said. "The more ways we have to communicate with staff and students in an emergency, the better.
Mark Hornickel, Media Relations Specialist
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Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468