LINCOLN — It was late afternoon when Bryan Howard got a phone call from a number he didn't know.

When he answered, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln sophomore from New Jersey found an automated message warning him of a minor gas leak on the other side of campus. The message was from the UNL Alert system he signed up for as a freshman.

But Howard and other UNL students won't be getting warning calls anymore.

At the start of 2013, the university switched systems, moving to text messages and email alerts — no phone calls. The change was partially to save money and partially to improve service, said UNL Police Chief Owen Yardley.

Voice messages tend to take longer to move through the system, he said, and time is vital in an emergency.

“We would experience issues where we would send out an alert, which would send out all three,” he said. “The texts and emails are usually received fairly quickly; the phone messages would take nearly 20 minutes to go out.”

Alerts go out about half a dozen times a year, usually for emergency situations and school closings, Yardley said. In the past year, alerts have been sent for gas leaks and a man seen running toward campus with a gun.

Students are being asked to re-enter their information on the UNL Alert website<</b> to keep it up to date.

The University of Nebraska at Omaha has a system similar to UNL's, sending text messages and emails to students in emergency situations, said Paul Kosel, manager of campus security.

But the University of Nebraska at Kearney still has warning calls, along with text messages and emails.

Michelle Hamaker, director of police and parking services at UNK, said the university could move to a system similar to those at UNL and UNO in the future.

“Every few years it is good to reassess our options and see what is out there,” she said. “I think that is something that we will be doing here in the next year, just to make sure what we have here is the most adequate with what we want to accomplish.”

Contact the writer: 402-473-9580,

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