Millersville University Launches Integrated Mass Notification System

From a single Web page interface, this Pennsylvania university deploys giant voice, text messaging, E-mail alerts and sirens to alert its community during an emergency.

It’s no secret that using only one type of mass notification during an emergency means that most likely, a certain portion of a campus community will not receive the information they need to protect themselves. For example, students with their cell phones turned off during class might not receive text alerts in a timely fashion. The hearing impaired might not hear sirens signaling that they should get out of harm’s way.

Public safety officials at Millersville University understood this all too well when they were in the market for a new emergency alert solution that would more effectively communicate with the campus’ staff, faculty and 8,000 students.

“It’s best to use a combination of technologies,” said Patrick Weidinger, Millersville’s director of safety and environment health. “However, in an emergency, activating multiple communications systems can slow you down, not allowing you to focus on the actual emergency. We needed a system that allows you to use one simple-to-use interface to launch our different notification channels.”

To accelerate and simplify the notification process, the Pennsylvania university needed a single integrated multi-layered Mass Notification System (MNS). The campus put together a security team to assess its emergency notification needs.

“Our internal team, including Information Technology, Environmental Health and Safety, and the University Police Department, understood that we needed a multi-tiered notification system to get to where we are now – our goal of preparedness excellence,” said Wayne Silcox, the university’s police chief.

The team chose Cooper Notification for the reliability and interoperability of its mass notification solutions. When time is of the essence, campus officials no longer have to launch multiple systems or scroll through numerous Web pages to broadcast emergency messages using Cooper Notification’s MNS. Whether mobilizing first responders or informing students of an emergency, Millersville University can now send alerts and potentially life-saving instructions campus-wide to multiple communication devices – all from a single web page.

The university, which already used Cooper Notification’s WAVES for broadcasting messages over wide outdoor areas, switched their campus text messaging and emergency E-mail alert system provider to Cooper Notification’s U.S. patented Roam Secure Alert Network (RSAN). Just in time for the fall semester, Millersville University launched their web-based RSAN systems, MU Alert, to the campus community.

“Our MU Alert, powered by RSAN, allows more users and better administration tools,” said Weidinger. “The new RSAN system uses priority communication lines, minimizing the chance for dropped or delayed text messages and emails reaching users.”

For outdoor notification, Cooper Notification installed three WAVES High Power Speaker Arrays (HPSAs) and an Integrated Speaker Unit on the campus for exterior voice alerting, providing emergency notification to the 250-acre academic campus. In an emergency, the HPSAs will broadcast a siren alert, followed by a live or recorded voice message tailored to the situation. The intrusive system sends out the emergency messages in real time and has the capability of alerting the entire campus or individual areas depending on the scope of the emergency.

Instead of using separate systems to notify the entire campus or segments of the campus community, university officials can now activate their E-mail, text messaging and outdoor “giant voice” speakers from one user interface by using Cooper Notification’s integrated Mass Notification Solutions.

To test the new system, Millersville University conducted an emergency response active shooter drill at the Dilworth Building. The drill utilized the RSAN system, University Telecommunications, the Millersville Borough Police, and staff from Environmental Health and Safety.

“RSAN proved its worth many times over by providing a timely warning and updates as appropriate during the drill,” said Silcox. “Use of the Dilworth User Group allowed the system to be utilized without sending out messages to the entire campus community.”

Implementing the system was eased by the experience of Cooper Notification and integrator The Protection Bureau of Exton, Silcox said.

“The campus team never felt we had to re-invent the wheel,” added Chief Silcox.

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