A Top Priority

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A Top Priority

Products with multiple purposes are becoming highly attractive

Universities across the nation are making safety for their students a top priority. From installing cameras to incorporating access control and implementing blue light call stations, campus security and public safety leaders are consistently looking for ways to ensure the safety of their community. With budget constraints as a constant factor, integrating products that serve multiple purposes is becoming highly attractive to the higher education market.

Located in the heart of Seattle, adjacent to Capitol Hill, Seattle Central College plays host to more than 16,300 students and 950 staff members. The campus experiences a high volume of foot traffic due to both their student population and the public areas, such as Capitol Hill and a city park that surround the school grounds.

Seattle Central was looking to add an additional layer to their public safety initiative—specifically blue light call stations across the campus. They turned to Elman McClain, director of public safety, for a plan. Multiple factors went into his product search. As a highly humid environment, emergency call stations and blue light stations located in the Seattle area must prevent moisture from finding a way into the unit. If water does get into an emergency call station system, it can affect the integrity of its operation. McClain was looking for an option that allowed him to use the blue light stations as more than housings for call stations. His goal was to incorporate the benefits of mass notification broadcasting and surveillance. After developing a request for proposal and completing

product research, McClain chose the Talkaphone WEBS MT/R Series Tower and Wall Mounts for his campus’s blue light stations. Equipped with four outdoor broadcasting speakers, local mustering capabilities and optional dual camera arm, the decision to install the towers was “a no brainer,” McClain said.

The campus installed Talkaphone VOIP-600 Series Call Stations throughout the grounds. These devices feature backlit call progress lighting for the hearing impaired and optional trigger text, ‘help on the way’, to alert the user to the status of the responder.

Working with integrator ABSCO Solutions as well as the Talkaphone team, the college’s installation process was both smooth and timely. “Our integrators knew what they were doing from the day we started and the manufacturer’s willingness to assist really made life easy for me,” the director said.

As a member of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement (IACLEA), McClain has a strong background and understanding of the Clery Act as well as a passion for what it represents. “We have legislation out there that says we need to have these resources to help keep our campuses safe,” McClain said.

Passed in 1990, the Clery Act requires colleges and universities to outline specific policies and procedures related to disseminating timely warnings and emergency notifications. Seattle Central decided to use the blue light call stations as a major part of communicating emergency information to their community. Regular testing of the blue light and broadcasting system is a part of Seattle Central’s security process. After the first test of the WEBS MT/R Tower outdoor broadcasting system, the director is extremely satisfied with his choice, saying the speakers are extremely clear, and very noticeable.

Blue light call stations, such as the towers installed at Seattle Central College, serve as two-way communication points between the public and the security force. A user can report an issue to the authorities but the broadcasting capabilities also allow the security team to circulate information to the public during a situation.

“The towers are both a visual reassurance and a crime deterrent for my community,” McClain said. “People see the towers and know that assistance is just a button push away.” The addition of the dual cameras on the towers at Seattle Central adds another layer of assurance. If the user is unable to speak to the security team, the officers are still able to obtain a visual of the situation. “It’s really nice that the system shows the specific location where the tower is being used. Our officers can start evaluating the needs of the situation—whether it’s assistance or a true emergency,” McClain said.

The tower’s local muster capability helps Seattle Central effectively use the blue light stations as complete resources. While the security officers can use the local mustering for emergency situations, such as a hazardous materials alert, the public safety department has also teamed up with student government to use this function for nonemergency circumstances. “We plan on allowing the student government to use the station’s local mustering during upcoming fair events on campus,” McClain said. Students at Seattle Central College are happy to see the towers stationed around campus and student leadership has requested the installation of more units. Parents have also expressed their gratitude for the campus’s focus on safety.

“When parents walk on campus and see these great big blue towers with lights and cameras on them, they think ‘our kids are going to be safe here’,” Mc- Clain said. “They know we are surveying the campus and keeping an eye out.”

The students at Seattle Central know that when they push one of the emergency buttons, they will get a human being on the other side of the line and that their call will be responded to.

“We always respond to a button push because sometimes you can’t talk,” McClain said.

The Department of Public Safety also provides a map showing the locations of the blue light stations as well as an instructional video on their website.

Looking towards the future for his campus, the director envisions integrating indoor emergency call stations as well as adding additional blue light stations to the outdoor areas of campus. His goal is to expand the uses of the towers and call boxes on campus. In regards to the existing towers on campus, McClain is satisfied with his current installation. “These guys are battle tested,” he said. “They are the number one we can rely on.”

This article originally appeared in the July 2016 issue of Security Today.

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