Broadcasting Security

Broadcasting Security

University aims to grow capabilities and response with new system

The safety and security of students, faculty and guests is paramount for any educational institution. It is always a challenge to implement a system that can not only protect these people, but also provide the means of responding to any situation. Finding a system that could easily tackle these issues as well as provide individual and mass notification response was critical for Shawn Woods, director of security at the University of the Sciences, in Philadelphia.

“We wanted to look at a system that was new, up-to-date and added additional features that allowed for better two-way communication,” Woods said. “We were able to address multiple issues in regards to our emergency notification and two-way communication. The addition of the wide-area emergency broadcast system contact platform allowed us to implement a mass notification system into our emergency process.”

The University of the Sciences recently went through a dramatic overhaul of its security, response and notification system. At the core of this upgrade was an NFPA 72-2010, Chapter 24 (ECS) compliant WEBS Contact platform. The platform allows the university to broadcast live and pre-recorded audio messages to any exterior and interior paging units and emergency phones strategically placed on campus. At the same time, personal notifications via SMS, e-mail or RSS can be routed to the appropriate segments of the population.

Provided by Talk-A-Phone, the WEBS contact platform offers a new way to combine independent notification mediums into a comprehensive crisis management solution. In addition to personal notifications and audio broadcasts to paging units, WEBS can be integrated with high-power speaker arrays and third-party paging systems. These combined features are designed to make the job of security staff easier during a crisis.

“The university is located on the west side of Philadelphia and covers approximately five square blocks,” Woods said. “The size of our campus makes mass notification difficult. We needed a way of contacting and providing instructions to our students and staff in case of an emergency. This platform allowed us to do just that. It allows us to select the location and means by which we contact our students and faculty.”

During an emergency, confusion and slow response time could be detrimental to an institution’s response plan. Being able to provide detailed instructions and information to a specific location or group, at the push of a button, can save security valuable time. Unlike other mass notification systems, WEBS Contact allows operators to segment a population of any size geographically and demographically, meeting NFPA 72-2010, Chapter 24 (ECS) requirements.

“All managers have access to our mass notification platform,” Woods said. “They have the ability to remotely go into the system and send out any message they like. These include prerecorded messages covering events such as an active shooter, fire, weather and lockdowns. Our managers also can broadcast unscripted messages to cover any situation we may have.”

WEBS Contact allows security staff to create location-specific pre-scripted emergency notification profiles. In the event of a localized emergency, such as a chemical spill, security is able to execute a single notification profile created for this specific event in a specific location.

As part of the upgrade, the university also has deployed WEBS emergency towers. These highly visible emergency communications towers feature an all-LED blue light at the top and are capable of broadcasting audio messages at a peak 123 dBA at one meter. The sound pressure level can be individually adjusted in each direction to accommodate installation in the vicinity of residential areas.

“Our supervisors especially like the ability to use individual units in the system to broadcast localized messages over the unit’s loudspeaker,” Woods said. “For example, if we have an incident at one of our resident halls, one of our supervisors can use a special designated key on a tower and broadcast instructions using an internal microphone in the unit. This is especially helpful for crowd control. These features are everything we could have imagined in a system.”

This article originally appeared in the January 2012 issue of Security Today.

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