Most colleges have several emergency platforms in place to protect their students and faculty. This includes access control systems that control access to buildings, classrooms, offices, etc. Also in place are powerful CCTV systems that canvas the campus as well as emergency call stations that are dotted all over the campus. But one challenge that colleges face is, how to get emergency and event notifications to students as well as to visitors and Alumni who are not in the campus database. Laws in place state that everyone on campus must be notified of dangerous situations, 24/7. How is this done?
Some universities have turned to GPS cellular notification systems that utilize the most widely carried notification device, the Smart Phone. (Currently it’s estimated that 52 percent of the population of universities have smart phones. By 2016 it is expected to be at around 90 percent.)
These systems will signal a smart phone and alert users of any emergency incidents or even non-emergency events happening on campus. This technology creates a geo fence around any sized area and alerts anyone with the app downloaded. Inside the geo fence, you receive the specific alerts. Outside the geo fence, you do not receive the alerts.
An alert can be sent campus-wide of an emergency or to a single building that may just be without hot water, for example. In the event of a crime, the app will also send a photo or video of a suspect.
Another hi tech approach to campus safety is using the smart phone in conjunction with campus security systems to create mobile alerts both to and from the students and faculty. The student or faculty member registers with the campus security to use the system with their personal information, cell phone and picture. In the event of an emergency, security can be notified via cell phone. Even if the caller cannot speak, the campus police have the GPS location of the caller, the picture registered with the caller and can respond.
Another example of how this works is as follows: A student is working late on a project. Its dark and they may be afraid to walk to their dorm or to their vehicle. They just log into the system, enter their location, destination and estimated time to arrive to the dorm or car, etc. The student can set a specific “alarm time” that if they do not check in when they arrive something is wrong.
If the student is late arriving at their destination, the security officer operating the CCTV system turns a campus Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) camera in the correct direction to locate a student in the route that may be having trouble. Larger universities have well over 100 PTZ cameras and can have over 600 stationary cameras in place!
The system will even check in with the student with a text, half way, to verify all is well. When the student arrives, they check in and log out of the system.
Unfortunately, the need for campus security will increase. Integrators will utilize every technology possible to increase safety and speed up emergency notification and response. In the years to follow, the Smart Phone will be the personal device of choice to accomplish it.
– Jim Welch, Technology Specialist