Kentucky Community College Leverages InformaCast® for Emergency Notification and Paging

KCTCS uses InformaCast for reaching staff and students with critical safety information.
Case StudiesColleges & Universities

Kentucky Community and Technical College System was formed in 1998. Today it has 16 comprehensive community and technical colleges with 67 campuses across the state of Kentucky.

The Challenge:

At Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS), the culmination of comprehensive crisis management planning involved the need for a stable emergency notification system that could access multiple locations quickly and provide continuity in the critical mass notification process.

The Solution:

KCTCS implemented InformaCast mass emergency notification and paging software that, in conjunction with the Desktop Notification System, and SchoolMessenger, allows contact across campuses through IP phones and speakers, legacy paging systems, computer desktops, SMS text messaging, and email.

Finding a Consistent Solution Across Campuses

KCTCS recognized the need for a crisis management plan/process that remained consistent across its many campuses and could reach all of its students and staff easily, quickly, and through as many technologies as possible to ensure receipt.

KCTCS gathered together a committee comprised of personnel from Crisis Management, the IT Department, Public Relations, and different college representatives in order to gain a wide perspective of the needs that must be filled by a comprehensive emergency notification system.

“We didn’t want to just make a decision, arbitrarily, and hand it down to the colleges,” said Bob Hammonds, System Director – Crisis Management, Environmental Health, and Safety at KCTCS. “We wanted their input and buy-in from the start.”

Having set its evaluation criteria and receiving buy-in from multiple groups across campuses, KCTCS assembled a list of vendors and began evaluating them. Singlewire’s InformaCast was the clear winner.

“It fit our particular needs. It was the product that simply gave us the tool we needed to culminate our crisis management plan,” said Hammonds.

InformaCast can send out audio and text messages to IP phones and speakers and legacy paging systems. Through InformaCast’s group functionality, KCTCS can send notifications to a particular building on campus, to a campus, or to a college. Using InformaCast’s desktop notification capabilities, KCTCS could get its messages out using IP phones, IP speakers, and legacy paging systems, as well as computer desktops. With the additional purchase of SchoolMessenger, KCTCS could also send messages via SMS messaging and email. The combination of InformaCast and SchoolMessenger allowed KCTCS to use every piece of technology available to it to get emergency notifications out.

Crafting the Solution

Once the decision was made, KCTCS worked with its VoIP provider, CBTS, to prepare the network environment needed to support such a solution. Singlewire and CBTS worked closely together to ensure that the implementation went smoothly and KCTCS was happy with the final product.

“We took InformaCast and put it at [CBTS’s] location where our CallManager server is,”said Derrel Cone, Technology Solutions Project Coordinator at KCTCS. “And so, it was rather painless in the fact that we didn’t have to go to multiple locations. We were able to go to one spot, load it, and get it working.”

Since KCTCS uses Microsoft Active Directory and InformaCast can import that information, KCTCS used its Active Directory structure to control staff’s access to messages and their rights as users

With the software installation complete, KCTCS began shaping SNAP—or SafetyNotification Alert Process—its own, branded emergency notification system. SNAP can reach 8,000 IP phones and countless computer desktops, and it’s integrated with KCTCS’s text messaging system, meaning that it can reach thousands of phones in minutes.

We are able to pick and choose how we want to structure the system,” said Hammonds. “We have the ability in the system office to blast it to the entire state—all of our offices, all of our colleges, campuses. We have also given each college the ability to break it down as they see fit.”

For the broadcast of messages over IP phones, a main component of InformaCast, KCTCS can virtually take over any phone included in the broadcast. Said Hammonds,

We can actually take over all of our phones and turn [them] into loudspeakers…We control the volume—we can interrupt phone calls—to give the message and get that message out.”

The same situation is possible when using InformaCast desktop notifications.

“Our computer screens turn a bright color,” said Hammonds. “We kind of take over the computer screen and put a bright message, and then there’s a bar that goes across and gives them the message with directions.”

For students who have signed up for text message alerts, messages appear in much the same way on their cell phones, with the aid of SchoolMessenger.

A Reliable and Versatile Emergency Notification System

KCTCS really put SNAP to the test during an ice storm in Kentucky that caused communications infrastructure damage the equivalent of a 6.2 earthquake. KCTCS’s communications were unaffected: it was able to get notifications out to campuses, and campuses could contact each other because of the redundancy and ease of use built into InformaCast and the SNAP system.

It’s something that’s used much more frequently than we ever anticipated,” said Hammonds. “We knew we had emergencies and we knew things went on, but since we’ve implemented the system, it’s been phenomenal.”

Students are appreciative of the level of communication KCTCS has adopted.

According to one testimonial, “As a new student, I really appreciated being informed of the school closing early in the morning. I live in Clarksville and SNAP saved me a good 45-minute drive to school just to find out that the school is closed.”

By allowing KCTCS to set up messages, create groups that will receive those messages, and choose the devices that will receive those messages, InformaCast stands as the backbone of the SNAP system.

We can hit that one button, and then it does it all,” said Cone.

The end result is a powerfully informed system of campuses that can communicate directly with each other, students, and their parents through a variety of devices, ensuring that, in the case of an emergency, everyone is apprised of the situation and can act accordingly.

One person’s life is worth much, much, much more than what we’ve invested in this system,” said Hammonds. “The comfort that it gives a person in my role is I know we can’t prevent things from happening, but I feel comfortable …knowing we can alert people…and potentially save lives.”

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