Filling the Gap in Emergency Response

Even PDAs and cell phones leave an emergency response-security void when absent or ignored. Wireless PA systems compatible with two-way radios can economically compensate for this weakness.

“Between Hurricane Katrina and the Virginia Tech shootings, some of my security colleagues and I became concerned about how effectively we’d communicate with the community during emergencies,” says Tom Carey, Director of Security and Campus Safety at Bates College, a four-year independent liberal arts and sciences college in Lewiston, Maine. 

“If a security incident occurred on campus, students, staff, or visitors could walk straight into trouble if we couldn’t get an emergency message to them in time,” adds Carey, who’s on the Domestic Preparedness committee of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA), the leading voice of the campus public safety community.  “While PDAs and cell phones are great, they leave a gap in emergency response for those not carrying or paying attention to them.”

When natural or man-made disasters occur, from tornado warnings to domestic or international terrorism, PDAs, cell phones and email are of little help to those without them or ignoring them.  To better protect school campuses and the wider community, wireless PA systems compatible with existing two-way radio systems are economically filling the emergency response-security gap at some of the nation’s most pro-active campuses and municipalities.

Looking for Better Choices
Carey sought a fast, informative, comprehensive, and reliable emergency response system for Bates College, but was unsatisfied with the traditional choices.

Simply mounting civil defense sirens was not enough.  “People hear sirens all the time, whether for police, fire, or ambulance and may have trouble distinguishing yet another siren,” says Carey.  “Sirens signal emergency, but don’t tell people what to do or not do.  That’s when people flood security phone lines looking for clarification, which only makes the problem worse.”

An emergency response phone, text, and email system was implemented at Bates College as part of a solution, but was not entirely sufficient by itself.  “Contact by phone, cell phone, PDA, or PC is certainly helpful, but there’s a lag time while someone composes a message and enters it in the system,” says Carey.  “From the onset of an incident to the last person reached can take 20 to 40 minutes or more if someone isn’t checking their messages.  The delay can be even longer for off-site hosted systems.”

“If people are outside walking around campus, taking a run, or anything else that occupies their attention, they may not immediately respond to an emergency alert even if they have an electronic device on them,” adds Carey.  “For emergencies, we needed an effective way to reach a large number of such students, staff, faculty, and visitors in real-time.”

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