How Colleges and Universities Leverage Emergency Notification Systems


Keeping Campuses Safe

Keeping students and staff safe on college and university campuses can be challenging. Large populations, the size of the campus, and the number of buildings to cover; make it challenging to communicate critical safety information when an emergency occurs. Many tools exist that claim to help with this issue, but when it comes to safety, the last thing security wants to deal with is trying to manage multiple systems to get the word out.

Higher education institutions around the country are leveraging emergency notification systems to help enhance campus safety, improve communication and provide a secure learning environment for students and staff. In this blog post, we’ve compiled stories from colleges and universities that provide firsthand accounts of how emergency notification systems change how they share critical information that keeps people safe.

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Reach Everyone

The need to reach everyone is critical on a college campus. Administrators and security personnel can’t afford to leave anyone out. That’s what Red Deer College in Alberta realized as its population grew. Without speakers or an intercom system, it began to look at the technology it did have: Cisco IP phones. Using InformaCast emergency notification software, Red Deer College can extend the reach and efficacy of its emergency notifications. While the college initially intended to use InformaCast for broadcasting alerts, it now uses it for call alerting and recording, automatic weather notifications, integration with existing systems, and more.

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Get Messages Out Quickly

Speed is of the essence when it comes to sending out emergency alerts. Columbia College in California found its rate could use a boost. Its paging system enabled paging to the school’s existing digital phones, but it could only reach 24 phones simultaneously. With 300 phones on campus located in more than 20 buildings, sending messages is taking too long. Since the area the college is located in often faces inclement weather, it needed to be able to quickly send alerts if class schedules were going to be impacted.

Columbia College turned to InformaCast to implement a system that would remove paging restrictions and help the college reach all of their devices simultaneously. InformaCast allows the college to send messages to IP phones as well as many other endpoints including IP speakers, email accounts, websites (like Twitter), and SMS messages. By sending messages in multiple formats to multiple devices simultaneously, Columbia College is reaching its people much more quickly than it did with its old paging system.

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Tie Everything Together

One of the most effective ways to keep people safe is by leveraging every tool to help spread information. Northcentral Technical College in Wisconsin began using InformaCast in 2005 for overhead paging but has since expanded its use to work in tandem with other security technologies. The college ties in Genetec security systems to all the door locks and the camera system. Pushing a button on a Cisco desk phone or through the Genetec mobile app will lock all the doors, restrict key card access points, and shut off room displays. Prerecorded emergency messages play on telephones and overhead speakers throughout campus. Prerecorded audio is also utilized in the event of severe weather.

Text and phone calls are sent to all security personnel and students via the SchoolMessenger plug-in. Emails are sent via SchoolMessenger and include text and audio, depending on the situation. The tight integration with Cisco phone systems meant the college saved money by not needing to buy any additional hardware. Its ability to send accurate information quickly, makes it easy for personnel to use, even during stressful situations.

It is now also easier for the college to facilitate emergency responders when 911 is called from buildings on campus. The phone location gets sent to the 911 dispatcher, and the campus security teams meet responders to guide them to the area they are needed.

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Integrate with Existing Systems

As mentioned in the examples above, and as is the case on other higher ed campuses using InformaCast, an emergency notification system that can connect with technology already in place offers tremendous value. The value comes in cost savings since colleges and universities need to invest in fewer pieces of technology and the ability to reach more people. Speed and reach are the two most important aspects of any communication system for any organization. Getting a message out to everyone can mean the difference between safety and harm. InformaCast can connect to IP speakers, digital signage, panic buttons, Cisco IP phones, desktop computers, and mobile devices to share critical information.

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Everyday Use

One common thread among these colleges and universities is that they incorporate their emergency notification system into everyday use. Finding daily applications helps ensure the system works how you expect it to when you need it most. Regular use lets higher education facilities know their system connects to devices it wants to receive messages and that groups and zones are set up correctly.

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These are just some ways schools leverage emergency notification tools to help enhance campus safety communication. Visit our higher education page to learn more, and contact us if you’re interested in speaking with someone about how InformaCast can be used on your campus.




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