Integrated Mass Notification Helps Texas A&M Get the Message Out Quickly

Texas A&M University can issue alerts simultaneously across multiple platforms like SMS, IP connections, social media and more.

on emergency response radios. Anyone watching TV connected to the campus cable TV system or watching the campus TV station will see a message on screen as well.

A dispatcher at the campus police station can send the messages via a Web-based dashboard and send separate messages to certain groups to direct emergency response teams, for example. The school’s IT staff worked with dispatchers on training them on how to use the system.

TAMU’s primary and secondary software licenses allowed the system to exist on different servers that mirrored each other and required that the databases on each, containing all the contacts and delivery methods for the alerting system, were synched and up to date. An upgrade to a virtual networking environment with database clustering has eased that burden and now keeps that data up to date, says Marlin Crouse, TAMU’s senior lead software applications developer.

TAMU has also dedicated itself to transparency, publishing the results of every alert since 2010 and how long it takes for the messages to be sent by the various means on its Code Maroon Web site.

The university is also in the process of adding other communications methods to the mix, including voice alerts through fire alarm panel speakers, digital displays in the lobbies and other public areas, and bringing desktop pop-up messaging from 5,000 to 40,000 networked computers.

A smartphone app to enable messaging will also be available in the fall. The app will act like a text message and may be delivered even faster, Clark says. “We grew up with the system and are adding other methods as they are available.”

Despite the growing need for emergency notification at schools, advanced systems like that one at Texas A&M remains somewhat of an exception for something that may quickly become the rule.

“It’s still new,” says AtHoc’s Tran. “Universities are generally open campuses. They were never quite required to have an enterprise-class integrated alerting system. But the more they get into it [with simple solutions], the more comprehensive solutions they want.”

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