A Direct Emergency Response
Community college district streamlines security solutions
- By Samuel Shanes
- Jul 01, 2012
The Chabot-Las Positas Community College District
serves a large part of the San Francisco
East Bay Area. The district operates two colleges:
Chabot College in Hayward and Las Positas
College in Livermore. The district serves nearly
25,000 students and employs approximately
2,000 staff. In order to accommodate the growing
number of staff and students, both Chabot
and Las Positas colleges have made additions to
their infrastructure in recent years.
With these new expansion projects came the challenging task of
upgrading the colleges’ emergency communication and response systems.
After the tragic events at Virginia Tech in 2007, it has been the
priority of many educational institutions to provide multiple means of
communication for their students, especially in new structural additions
to a campus.
Chabot and Las Positas operate separately from each other. They
each have their own administrators, staff and public safety representatives
and officers. Both colleges were looking to update and expand
their current public safety communication solutions, and both came to
a decision to install Talk-A-Phone’s emergency phones, mass notification
towers and software throughout each campus.
Chabot wanted to install a product that would function as a communication
tool for both its students and police officers. The college’s 94
acres of land are in the center of the Hayward suburban community, and
heavy pedestrian traffic navigates through and around the campus daily.
“The main objective of the college was to improve communications
in and around campus,” said Nathan Moore, the emergency preparedness wanted a system that would allow us to broadcast messages from
our call center and also broadcast messages spoken directly
through the units with a microphone in the back.”
Chabot has installed emergency phones throughout the campus
parking lots and recreational areas with heavy student traffic. The
installation included blue-light towers as well as smaller pedestal
mounts equipped with Talk-A-Phone’s WEBS mass notification
speakers. Not only do these units allow students to instantly connect
with Chabot’s security in case of an emergency, they allow the
security team to reach out to the entire campus community using
the WEBS Contact mass notification platform.
Taking into consideration the long history of earthquakes and
wildfires in California, it is vital for Moore and the rest of the
Chabot security forces to have reliable communication tools during
“We wanted a system that could help us better organize our
response and communication with the community,” Moore said.
“These units have done just that. These units let the community
know what’s going on during a drill or actual emergency. We wanted
to create a safe environment.”
All units, which were painted bright red with an all-LED blue
light on the top, can be seen throughout the entire campus and are
easily identifiable. According to Moore, the blue-light towers have
a strong presence on campus.
“At night, the strobe lights have actually helped us locate people
during emergencies,” he said.
One of the key features of the blue-light emergency towers is that
they allow easy integration of audio broadcasting, emergency communication
and video surveillance. The system is extremely flexible
and allows security authorities to broadcast intelligent live and
pre-recorded messages through individual units or multiple zones.
During the planning phase, it became apparent that the emergency
phone towers would allow Chabot security to use mass notification,
individual response and video surveillance capabilities in one
One of the most vocal supporters of the towers is Leilani Guerrero,
a Chabot College medical assistant and teacher. Guerrero has
worked at the college since 2006 and has watched the number of
emergency phones grow throughout the years.
“I’ve seen them in action,” Guerrero said. “Sometimes students
will hit them if they have an emergency, a problem with parking or
something else. The college has done campus-wide emergency
drills with these units for fire and earthquakes. They recently did a
drill a few weeks ago. These units are in full force, and they’re
located all over campus. They’re quite loud, and they really work.
Everyone is so happy they’re here.”
Recently, Las Positas College received funding from a large
bond measure to expand its infrastructure and improve facilities in
and around the campus. With these funds, Sean Prather, Las Positas
College’s head of campus safety, was given the opportunity to
upgrade the college’s dated and impractical emergency communication
network. He, too, selected to install Talk-A-Phone equipment
throughout the campus.
Las Positas’ older emergency call boxes and towers were hard
to locate and didn’t offer mass notification capabilities. Prather
chose to upgrade the campus with new units because they were
easily identifiable and offered several different delivery options
for mass notification.
The new emergency wall mounts and towers are able to cover all
areas of the 147-acre, 8,800-student campus. This coverage was
achieved by placing an emergency wall mount or tower every 200
feet. When arriving at Las Positas, it is easy to see the security ring
that these units provide. Students and the surrounding community
know that the sight of a blue-light emergency phone means
the boundary or enforcement of the Las Positas campus safety and
“We wanted them within eyesight, about every 200 feet,” Prather
said. “We wanted them spread all over the parking lots where people
tend to be a little more isolated, as opposed to being in the
interior of the campus.”
Prather added that the new units have been reliable and easy to
learn and operate for both students and officers.
“We’ve had the Talk-A-Phones for about three years,” he said.
“We used to get false alarms with our older products, but with the
Talk-A-Phones we’ve never experienced any problems. They’re
really easy for the officers to use, and they’re easily identifiable to
Always in Service
Once an emergency wall mount or a tower is activated, it is critical
that both the individual who activated the phone and the campus
security have clear and undisrupted communication with each
other. The problem with the older emergency communication units
was that the individual who was placing a call would have to press
and hold a button to talk. This limitation posed a risk because in
most emergencies, it’s not realistic for someone to continue to press
a button every time he or she needs to communicate. The installation
of new units fixed this problem; an individual has only to press
the emergency button once to have continuous communication.
Additionally, Prather has been able to integrate all emergency
communication units with the college’s camera and access control
“When a unit is activated, a signal is sent to every officer’s radio,”
Prather said. “The nearest officer can then respond to the activation.
This allows us to drastically reduce our response time.”
The new emergency phones also fit existing mounts on campus,
which are being phased out. This capability has allowed Prather
and the college to save money by maintaining old and outdated
units through integration with new parts and units.
The new emergency phone towers installed at Las Positas offer
multiple means of mass notification. Each tower can deliver mass
notification through speakers, allowing security officers to alert
individual locations or the entire campus. A microphone is included
in the back of each tower, allowing an officer to make on-the-fly
messages through the tower loudspeaker.
“I really enjoy being able to use the microphone and using it for
mass notification,” Prather said. “For example, there’s a soccer field
not too far from this location. If I needed to evacuate the soccer field,
I could go to a nearby tower and use the microphone in the back of
the unit. This gives us another mass notification delivery option.”
The emergency communication and mass notification equipment
has been a great success for the Cabot-Las Positas Community
College District. With the need to connect with more students
every year, the district has made it clear that communication and
emergency preparedness are essential tools in the district’s growth.
“I’ve heard nothing but good feedback from the campus community,”
Prather said. “I think they’ve been a huge benefit to our
This article originally appeared in the Security Products Magazine - July 2012 issue of Security Today.