Campuses Continue to Invest in Emergency Notification Systems and Upgrades

CS' latest survey shows that one in two campus protection professionals say their institutions plan on or are considering deploying new/upgraded emergency alert solutions in the next year.
Published: May 5, 2014

Hospitals, schools and institutions of higher education are actively seeking more robust emergency notification solutions, according to the results of Campus Safety magazine’s 2014 Emergency Notification survey. More than 700 campus security, law enforcement, emergency management and other protection professionals completed this survey in March, and just over half of the respondents indicate they plan on or are considering deploying new or upgraded solutions in the next year.

Not a single system covered in this year’s research experienced a decrease in buying interest compared with CS‘ last mass notification survey in 2010. The percentage of campuses upgrading or buying new external loudspeakers has increased from 15% overall in 2010 to 24% overall in 2014. Those buying fire alarm systems with voice evacuation increased from 11% to 17%. Interest in pop-up alerts via computers/projectors rose as well from 18% four years ago to 24% in 2014. Text message systems saw the biggest climb in overall interest from 32% in 2010 to 43% this year.

The prevalence of SMS text messaging systems currently deployed on campuses has increased by eight percentage points from 58% overall in 2010 to 66% in 2014. Deployment of fire alarm systems with voice evacuation increased from 20% overall four years ago to 28% now. The biggest increase, however, is with social media. In 2010, only 15% of CS survey respondents said they used these portals for mass notification. Now, 38% use social media.

View Campus Safety’s 2014 Emergency Notification survey results in our slideshow.

Opt-Out Policies Gain in Popularity

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Healthcare and educational facilities continue to refine the tactics they use to encourage students, faculty, staff and parents to sign up for their SMS text messaging alert systems.

Campuses are now using new-hire orientations to attract employees to their text messaging systems much more than they did four years ago. In 2010, only 39% (overall) used this approach, while today 53% use employee orientations to get staff members to sign up. The reason is obvious: new-hire orientations work. More than half of university and hospital respondents say it is one of the most effective ways to attract users to sign up for their text messaging programs.

New-student orientation appears to work for institutions of higher education. Nearly two out of three (65%) university respondents say it is one of the most effective approaches to getting students to sign up for text alerts.

Automatic enrollment with opt-out is much more popular now than it was in 2010. Overall in 2014, 31% of survey respondents who have a text message system now use this approach. Four years ago, only 11% used the opt-out option overall. Again, campuses use automatic enrollment with opt-out because they believe it works. Overall, a third of respondents find it to be one of the most effective ways to encourage participation, compared with only 16% in 2010.

On the flip side, sign-up tables have lost favor in the recruitment of new text alert users. Now only 10% of overall survey respondents use this approach to getting their campus communities to register for these systems, while 14% used it in 2010.

General Budgets Pay for Upgrades

General budgets are by far the most common ways campuses, particularly educational institutions, are paying for their emergency notification systems. Now, nearly two out of three K-12 districts (64%) and institutions of higher education (65%) are paying for their emergency notification solutions with funds from their general campus budgets. Overall only 53% of the systems were funded that way in 2010, compared with 59% today.

A third of hospital respondents (33%) pay for their systems with general campus budgets. They appear to have more funding options than their university or K-12 brethren, including grants (29%), department budgets (22%), IT (20%), facilities (19%) and emergency management (22%).

Campuses Focus on Systems Integration

There appears to be some timidity by campuses to switching to new mass notification solutions. More than half overall (57%) say they don’t know if they would switch to a new system if they could find a solution that were perfect. Thirteen percent say they wouldn’t switch, while 30% say they would.

Part of that hesitancy could be attributed to the time it would take to migrate to a new system. About one in four (26%) respondents overall say their institutions could implement a new solution in six months or less. Thirty-nine percent say it would take more than six months, while more than a third of respondents (35%) say they don’t know how long it would take to make the transition.

Fortunately, most campuses are not being forced to rip-and-replace their legacy systems. Instead, close to two-thirds (62%) of institutions with multiple emergency notification systems either have already integrated their solutions or are working on it.

Want more information? Check out CS’ slideshow that features charts to give you further insight on how campuses are handling emergency notification solutions.


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Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series