California Community College Uses InformaCast® for Reliable and Efficient Emergency Notification

Columbia College implemented InformaCast for its versatility and speed.
Case StudiesColleges & Universities

Columbia College, located in Sonora, California, is a part of the Yosemite Community College District. Columbia College educates approximately 2,000 students every year and employs 100 faculty members.

The Challenge:

Columbia College was using an outdated paging system that limited how fast they could send out a mass notification across their campus. Its location in northern California meant the campus was often closed down because of inclement weather conditions. With limited phone capabilities, reaching students quickly to alert them with a critical notification of inclement weather was nearly impossible.

The Solution:

Columbia College implemented the InformaCast mass notification system for its versatility and speed to replace its old paging notification system. With InformaCast in place, campus administrators can send an emergency mass notification to all phones, overhead paging speakers, and additional endpoints, including IP speakers, email accounts, Twitter, and SMS messages.

Overcoming Notification Limitations

Columbia College in Northern California was using an outdated paging system that limited how fast they could send out notifications across their campus. Its old paging system enabled paging to the school’s existing digital phones, but notifications could only be sent to 24 phones at a time. At that pace, it took a very long time to get a message out to the approximately 300 campus phones. Those 300 phones weren’t located in one central building either.

“Our campus has about 20 little buildings and they are spread out around a little reservoir,” explained Fred Grolle, a network technician at Columbia College.

Having to repeat the same message over and over again was keeping Grolle and other administrators at the school from getting notifications out quickly and efficiently. This became particularly challenging when the campus closed down because of inclement weather conditions.

“The biggest problem we have is that we often get snow and we need to alert the students that we are closing campus for their safety,” explained Grolle. “It’s a hilly campus, so when we get snow, we don’t want cars slipping and sliding as they leave and we don’t want people tripping. We want to get the word out to all the students and faculty that we’re closing campus.”

With the 24-phone limit, reaching students quickly to alert them to inclement weather was nearly impossible.

Reaching More People and Devices

Columbia College decided to implement InformaCast as a replacement for its old paging system because of its versatility and speed. With an InformaCast system in place, Grolle and other campus administrators can now send notifications to all the phones on campus with a single message. Simultaneously, they can also send that same message to buildings on campus that have overhead paging speakers. In addition, InformaCast allows users to send messages to IP phones as well as many other endpoints including IP speakers, email accounts, websites (like Twitter), and SMS messages.

InformaCast can be accessed in two ways: users can set up and send notifications through an easy-to-use web interface or through their phone’s interface. Administrators at Columbia College use their phones’ interfaces to send the majority of their InformaCast messages.

“We have set up a service on the phone that allows me to page out some prerecorded canned messages (because a snow day is pretty much going to be the same story every time). I also set those services up on various administrators’ phones so that they can make the call and either do a live page or one of my canned pages,” explained Grolle.

InformaCast in Use

Aside from weather alerts, Columbia College uses InformaCast to alert people to the loss of power on campus.

“Let’s say we lose power,” said Grolle, “As soon as the power goes out, we have a page that confirms, ‘Yes, the power is out. We are considering whether we are staying open or closing, but for the time being, the school is open.’ Of course, you can’t page to an IP phone that has no power.”

To solve this problem, Grolle and his team configured all of the network switches and phones with UPS battery backup, enabling the phones and network to continue working for approximately two hours. This gave the administration at Columbia College a limited window in which to make their decision about whether or not to stay open.

“After about half an hour to an hour, the decision is made to stay open or to close. And, if we were to decide that the school was to close, we would page out to tell the students to leave campus and the staff to locate to a central building.”

Singlewire Support

As an InformaCast customer, Columbia College has access to Singlewire’s online support resources and world-class support team.

“I have talked with Singlewire Support for various reasons and I have always been very happy with their quick response,” said Grolle. “Sometimes you call companies [for product support] and you get the runaround, but I have been very pleased with Singlewire.”

Return on Investment

The investment made with InformaCast has been returned in many ways. Not only was the solution cost-effective, but it was also a simple one for Columbia College to implement. The staff has found it easy to use, customize, and adapt to the organization’s changing needs.

Visit our Colleges & Universities page for more information about how to InformaCast can help enhance safety and communication on campuses.