MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We often communicate by emailing and texting, but the University of Minnesota thinks it needs to do something else in an emergency to get the attention of students and staff immediately.

So the University is putting up 21 speakers at its campus, where pre-recorded messages during a true emergency can be broadcast.

“We needed an opportunity, a way that we can communicate with the campus community out on the grounds,” said spokesperson Tim Busse.

The Twin Cities campuses will get 16 speakers, and they’re going to be put in specific spots on both campuses, so that anyone outside, no matter where they are, can hear them. Some of the speakers are already up on the St. Paul campus.

“If it’s a real emergency, I feel that’s a good way to get the word out fast,” said student Colton Cummings. “A lot of times, I’ve got my phone in my backpack or whatever, so I mean, if I got a text or email, I wouldn’t immediately know.”

With 80,000 people on the Minneapolis campus daily, university officials see the need to be in touch with the population. They say it’s the sixth largest Minnesota city on any given day.

University officials were motivated to get this plan going after the massacre at Virginia Tech. A gunman killed or wounded nearly five dozen people. It was the deadliest shooting incident by a single gunman in U.S. history.

“We’re going to use this very judiciously, and when we do use this, there’s a specific emergency on campus. We don’t want this to fall on deaf ears,” said Busse.

A recent emergency text sent out regarding a chemical spill in Moose Tower, telling people to avoid the area, would be the same sort of message broadcast overhead.

“I think a speaker system would make it seem urgent,” said student Kelly Sharron. “I think it makes me feel more secure. They’re trying to access you at every point.”

All the speakers should be installed by Halloween and working by the next day. A grant from the Department of Homeland Security is helping pay for them.


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