A Universal Solution

Hillsborough Community College improve security infrastructure

In recent years, colleges across the country have upgraded and improved the way they monitor, assess and respond to security incidents on campus. Unfortunately for many departments around the country, the continuing economic downturn has led to budget and staff reductions, which in turn have posed a serious challenge to college police and security departments. As a result, campuses now have to rely on improved infrastructure and tools in order to police their respective populations more efficiently.

Emergency phones have been an important part of the security landscape at educational institutions for some time. Beginning as simple two-way communication devices, they have evolved into multipurpose tools for improving campus safety and security. Newer devices can not only provide needed assistance to distressed individuals, they can remotely monitor areas when officers aren’t available, tie-in with access control devices and video management systems and broadcast mass notification messages to large areas on campus.

Knowing that these tools are now available, many colleges have started looking at emergency phone towers as a way to leverage their infrastructure investment and compensate for cuts in budgets and staff.

Hillsborough Community College (HCC) in Florida has been at the forefront of adapting its security infrastructure and police force to unfortunate budgetary cuts and staff limitations. In order to overcome these constraints and properly police its 48,000-student enrollment, HCC turned to Talk-A-Phone Co.

A Towering Force

Victor Clime, chief of public safety for HCC, was introduced to Talk-a-Phone’s emergency phone towers that incorporate emergency communication, mass notification, camera surveillance and access control capabilities. He said the towers are able to increase the effectiveness, capability and response of the his depleted department.

“Our towers used to only be emergency phone towers,” Clime said. “We now have emergency phone towers with mass notification capabilities, cameras and other tools. Because of budgetary constraints, every safety department across the country thinks they’re undermanned. I certainly felt the same way. “These towers act as a force multiplier for me. They provide eyes and ears to my officers. They provide a voice when I need one. It allows us to quickly respond to situations and patrol more effectively. It was definitely an investment that was worthwhile.”

There are dozens of emergency phone towers installed across the college’s five campuses. Sporting a safety blue color and intense LED blue light on top, the towers are hard to miss during both day and night. The number, size and visibility of the towers create an easily identifiable perimeter around and throughout each Hillsborough campus.

“We even have them in our most remote locations,” Clime said. “Students are aware that these units are around. While on campus, you can’t look in any direction without seeing a tower. They remind students and visitors that my guys are always ready and watching. I know that students appreciate them, and I know my officers do, too.”

A Potentially Vital Connection

The towers act as a two-way communication device with an uninterrupted connection. This means that a person needs only to activate the tower once in order to have a continuous connection to the campus police or dispatcher. This feature is especially helpful for people who need the use of their hands during an emergency. Additionally, every time a tower is activated, the exact location of the unit is relayed to the dispatch center. This saves the dispatch center time in trying to figure out the location of the call, especially if the person who activated the tower does not know his or her location or cannot respond verbally.

“When someone activates a unit, our department immediately knows their location and what’s going on,” Clime said. “This has shortened our response time and improved our service provision to the college as a whole.”

In order to police the college’s sprawling campuses, the chief maximized the efficiency of his patrolling police force. With a lack of officers available, Clime again saw his new emergency phone towers as the solution. Extended on an architectural CCTV arm above each tower are dome PTZ cameras that provide surveillance before, during and after an activation. With these cameras, Clime’s dispatch center was able to watch all areas of campus while working shorthanded. The towers act as patrolling officers, relaying up-to-date information at a moment’s notice.

“We’ve had instances where we’ve identified suspicious activity on campus through our cameras,” Clime said. “In one case, we had someone trying to break into several vehicles on the far side of campus. Students saw this and activated a tower. We saw this through our cameras, and our department responded immediately. We were able to catch the person and stop the crime.”

Furthermore, the cameras can help identify people during an activation— not only the person who activates the unit but others who are at access control points and gates, as well.

Whole Campus Protection

Another benefit for Clime and his officers is the mass notification capabilities of the towers. Near the top of each tower are four highpowered speakers capable of providing 360-degree coverage.

“Hillsborough Community College had to be in compliance with mandates, issued by the Department of Homeland Security, requiring mass notification capability across campus,” Clime said. “What was great about our new towers is that they not only provide us with emergency communication and ‘eyes in the sky,’ but they also include mass notification capabilities.”

During an emergency event, there may be a need to send out a mass notification message. Visitors, faculty, staff and even students may not have immediate or direct access to college emails, texts or other lines of communication. The towers cover any of those voids and make sure that if a message needs to be sent out, everyone on campus will receive clear and detailed information. The dispatch center can broadcast from towers individually or in groups. This allows Clime’s department to send specific messages to some or all areas of campus with ease.

This article originally appeared in the January 2013 issue of Security Today.

Featured

  • Maximizing Your Security Budget This Year

    The Importance of Proactive Security Measures: 4 Stories of Regret

    We all want to believe that crime won’t happen to us. So, some business owners hope for the best and put proactive security measures on the back burner, because other things like growth, attracting new customers, and meeting deadlines all seem more pressing. Read Now

  • Enhanced Situation Awareness

    Did someone break into the building? Maybe it is just an employee pulling an all-nighter. Or is it an actual perpetrator? Audio analytics, available in many AI-enabled cameras, can add context to what operators see on the screen, helping them validate assumptions. If a glass-break detection alert is received moments before seeing a person on camera, the added situational awareness makes the event more actionable. Read Now

  • Transformative Advances

    Over the past decade, machine learning has enabled transformative advances in physical security technology. We have seen some amazing progress in using machine learning algorithms to train computers to assess and improve computational processes. Although such tools are helpful for security and operations, machines are still far from being capable of thinking or acting like humans. They do, however, offer unique opportunities for teams to enhance security and productivity. Read Now

  • Computers Beginning to Come Back Online After CrowdStrike Caused Crash Friday

    Computers around the world are beginning to come back online after a defective update to Windows machines from cybersecurity provider CrowdStrike Friday affected almost 9 million machines. Read Now

Featured Cybersecurity

New Products

  • EasyGate SPT and SPD

    EasyGate SPT SPD

    Security solutions do not have to be ordinary, let alone unattractive. Having renewed their best-selling speed gates, Cominfo has once again demonstrated their Art of Security philosophy in practice — and confirmed their position as an industry-leading manufacturers of premium speed gates and turnstiles. 3

  • Luma x20

    Luma x20

    Snap One has announced its popular Luma x20 family of surveillance products now offers even greater security and privacy for home and business owners across the globe by giving them full control over integrators’ system access to view live and recorded video. According to Snap One Product Manager Derek Webb, the new “customer handoff” feature provides enhanced user control after initial installation, allowing the owners to have total privacy while also making it easy to reinstate integrator access when maintenance or assistance is required. This new feature is now available to all Luma x20 users globally. “The Luma x20 family of surveillance solutions provides excellent image and audio capture, and with the new customer handoff feature, it now offers absolute privacy for camera feeds and recordings,” Webb said. “With notifications and integrator access controlled through the powerful OvrC remote system management platform, it’s easy for integrators to give their clients full control of their footage and then to get temporary access from the client for any troubleshooting needs.” 3

  • Connect ONE’s powerful cloud-hosted management platform provides the means to tailor lockdowns and emergency mass notifications throughout a facility – while simultaneously alerting occupants to hazards or next steps, like evacuation.

    Connect ONE®

    Connect ONE’s powerful cloud-hosted management platform provides the means to tailor lockdowns and emergency mass notifications throughout a facility – while simultaneously alerting occupants to hazards or next steps, like evacuation. 3