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Survey: 60 Percent of Parents Think College Campuses are Unsafe

Just four in 10 parents of college-bound students think college campuses are safe, and only 3 percent of parents believe colleges are well-equipped to deal with emergencies, according to a recent survey conducted by Kelton Research.
 
In the wake of recent shootings on college campuses, which exposed up to 20-minute delays in the receipt of emergency messages sent to students’ cell phones, safety now ranks among the top criteria parents weigh in choosing a college for their children.

When an emergency does occur, 90 percent of parents surveyed expect kids to be alerted within five minutes or less. In the recent shooting on the University of Texas in Austin, media reports revealed a 23-minute delay between the times two different students received an initial alert sent via text message to their cell phones.

To close this critical time gap, IntelliGuard Systems is bringing the same wireless technology used in life-and-death situations by hospitals and emergency first-responders to college campuses. IntelliGuard Systems offers a dedicated wireless network that simultaneously delivers emergency messages to unlimited recipients on the campus, all of which are received in less than 20 seconds.

Having recently completed pilot tests with six colleges – including the University of Southern California (USC) – IntelliGuard Systems is now making its high-speed emergency alert solution available to colleges across the country in time for the fall 2011 semester.
 
USC’s Carey Drayton, executive director and chief of public safety, said, “In tests we conducted of the IntelliGuard solution on campus, we were able to verify simultaneous receipt of an emergency message in less than 15 seconds. That type of performance would make IntelliGuard a valuable addition to our existing emergency response capability.”

He added, “This is crucial because when an emergency occurs on campus, our most important concerns are determining what happened, formulating the right message to communicate and then getting that info delivered to our community of students and staff as quickly as possible to keep everyone out of harm’s way.”

Other schools that participated in the pilot programs include Providence College, Stetson University, Texas Southern University, Drexel University and Bentley University.

“Cellular networks are fine for day-to-day communications, but during a life-threatening event when you must alert thousands of people simultaneously, SMS/text messaging does not work,” said Dave Andersen, president and chief operating officer of IntelliGuard Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of American Messaging Services. “That’s why we created a dedicated network that delivers both speed and control over emergency communications so that schools can simultaneously notify all students of an emergency immediately and then communicate ongoing developments as they occur.”

According to 4G Americas, a wireless industry trade association, SMS has significant limitations and shortcomings that make it unsuitable for emergency communications, especially under life-threatening conditions. Yet most colleges that are in compliance with the Clery Act – the federal statute that requires institutions to give timely warnings of events that represent a threat to the safety of students or employees – use an SMS/text/email-based alert system to notify students of an emergency.

Emergency alerts sent to thousands of students and faculty over cellular networks are delayed due to the challenge of coordinating alerts across multiple carriers. Additionally, because these alerts are sent sequentially, the more messages sent, the greater the time gap between receipt of those messages. Cellular networks also become overburdened quickly and remain that way throughout emergency situations, resulting in even more delay or blockage of critical messages.

“Our existing layered emergency alert system relies on SMS/text and e-mail, which are adequate when time isn’t a critical factor. But when I have to send multiple messages of instruction during an emergency, I have no control over what the cell carriers do. Plus once an initial emergency alert is sent, the students immediately call their parents to let them know what’s happening, which only clogs the network further, adding to the delay of message delivery. With IntelliGuard, I know that everyone will get every message that’s sent out at the same time in seconds,” said Koren V. Kanadanian, director of emergency management at Providence College.


In contrast to cellular-based systems, IntelliGuard’s advanced wireless network protocol, which is based on an amended but proven technology previously used in the paging industry, unifies all intended recipients so that emergency alerts can be received by an unlimited number of people and places at the same time in seconds, as opposed to minutes or even hours.

The IntelliGuard System is a private, turnkey solution that includes dedicated wireless transmitters, streamlined dispatch software and alert devices, called RAVENAlert, that are dedicated and specific to each campus and its students.
 
RAVENAlert devices display text, emit sounds and/or words, vibrate and display a flashing light as part of their alert arsenal. Unlike cell phones, which often must be turned off in class, RAVENAlert devices always remain on. Alerts are delivered to:

•    RAVENAlert Keychain, a memory-stick-sized receiver that can be worn or carried by every member of a college community.
•    RAVENAlert Wall Unit, wall-mounted or free-standing in classrooms, dorm rooms, and other locations
•    RAVENAlert LED Display, a 53-inch digital sign for large campus venues.
 
This survey was conducted by Kelton Research among 2,573 total respondents, which included 2,060 parents and 513 college students (attending a four-year college or university). Among the parents surveyed, 1,032 are parents of current college students (attending a four-year college or university) and 1,028 are parents of prospective college students (current high school juniors or seniors planning to go to a four-year college or university). The sample reflects a mix of school sizes, gender, age and U.S. geographic regions. The survey was fielded from Sept. 28, 2010 through October 7, 2010 using an e-mail invitation and an online survey.


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