At the University of Washington, its police department needed an effective and affordable tool to connect and address all areas of the campus community.
Emergency phone towers were installed across the University of Washington’s main campus. Half of those towers feature WEBS®, Talkaphone’s Wide-Area Emergency Broadcast System capable of delivering clear audible messages to targeted or entire areas of campus.
The majority of the towers replaced older emergency phones, of which there are still many on campus.
The towers are placed in accordance with the University of Washington’s emergency evacuation plan. Each tower is painted bright blue and equipped with an emergency phone. Blue LED lights are on top of every unit and flash continuously when a unit is activated.
Once they’re activated, the phone automatically dials to the campus police dispatch center. The campus dispatch center immediately knows the exact location of the tower. Additionally, security cameras on and around the tower provide a live video feed of the situation to officers.
Sue Carr, the Technical Services Manger for the University of Washington Police Department, manages their IT, records, and dispatch center.
She elaborated on the process following an emergency phone activation, “In the dispatch center we are listening to radios and incoming calls all the time. When a unit is activated we get the call directly into our dispatch center and we can immediately respond. We call them blue phone activations.”
Another goal that the university wanted to achieve was to improve mass notification capabilities across campus. The WEBS towers, spread out across campus, each have speakers, enabling broadcasting a mass notification message about 1,000 feet in all directions.
University of Washington Police or emergency personnel can broadcast messages from the dispatch center through a single tower or selected group of towers, if the alert is limited to only part of the campus.
Using a special key, campus police officers also have the ability to use a microphone in the back of each tower. This allows officers to broadcast messages directly from the back of each unit.
Ray Wittmier, interim chief of the University of Washington Police, thinks that multiple approaches to mass communication is the one best approach for the university.
“Everybody recognizes the need for a mass notification system,” he says, “but as we looked at that, we realized that the old, antiquated e-mail method really doesn’t cover everything we need. When we’re trying to send out a message to 65,000 people via one platform, it takes well over an hour. We need multiple ways to deliver that message.”
With some mass notification solutions, they are there to fill a void.
Valencia College in Orlando, Fla., no doubt, has a stunning security infrastructure. It incorporates a multitude of mass notification access control, and emergency communication layers.
Tom Lopez, assistant vice president of safety, security, and risk management at Valencia, noticed something missing within the school’s mass notification tools and immediately set out to address it. “We had a void. All of the professional and expert recommendations we received pointed to multilayered mass notification systems. We were lacking in one of those layers. We needed external mass notification devices that could communicate with our campus population.”
So he installed outdoor area WEBS paging units to broadcast clear messages over vast areas. “We’ve used them to notify the campus of severe weather such as tornados. Obviously in Florida, bad weather is a common occurrence. A lot of other institutions use sirens for mass notification. The problem with sirens it that the people who hear them don’t necessarily know what the signal means. With these paging units we can create specific messages to address multiple scenarios. I like that.”
This article originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of the Security magazine.