Chief Dale Pittman, head of the University of Alaska Anchorage police department, is responsible for providing a safe campus environment for faculty, students and staff.


Mass communication is changing. From education to enterprise, companies are looking for ways to better communicate across the board. Many enterprise software companies are searching for ways to deliver a solution that allows an organization to communicate emergent and non-emergent messages through an alert notification system via text messaging, Instant Messaging, e-mail, voicemail, fax, etc.

More specifically, the higher education market has been under the microscope with regard to effective communication in order to set standards for communicating with students, administrators and campus, collectively. The campus police department at the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) relies on mass notification to assemble crisis response teams and keep students safe.

Students, faculty and staff can be alerted of campus emergencies through the mass notification system, which can be sent via voice and text communications.

CAMPUS CHALLENGES

UAA continually evaluates its crisis communication plan to safeguard its students, faculty and staff. The university’s police department has faced several challenges in connecting with key staff members and notifying faculty and students in different buildings during campus emergencies.

Chief Dale Pittman, head of the police department, is responsible for providing a safe campus environment for faculty, students and staff and regularly responds to a wide variety of emergencies ranging from intoxicated students to traffic issues to gas leaks and hazardous spills.

UAA’s police department grappled with notifying people in danger in a specific area. Campus police recognized the need to lock down certain areas of campus quickly after a student attempted to assault other students and pulled numerous fire alarms. Existing emergency calling processes were manual, and the team did not have an efficient method of warning students and notifying university faculty and staff of the existing danger.

The university’s IT infrastructure could not support emergency call volumes. The communication infrastructure was set up to handle daily calling, but was not sufficient enough to operate under the strain of calling hundreds or thousands of people simultaneously in an emergency.

Assembling the campus response team took too long. UAA’s campus response team consists of the university’s safety officer, media relations director, dean of students, facilities manager and campus police chief. In order to contact the crisis team during emergencies, Chief Pittman had to call each member of the team one by one until he was able to get through, hampering his ability to coordinate schedules and set up conference calls.

SOLUTION

UAA’s Police Department implemented 3n’s InstaCom system to meet its crisis response and notification objectives. The system allows campus law enforcement to communicate rapidly with key personnel regarding emergencies and routine campus issues. Since implementing the system, UAA has received positive feedback from those affected. Message recipients particularly appreciate the system’s voice-recording capability. Receiving messages from a recognizable voice – Chief Pittman – lends a personal touch.

“The mass notification system has saved us a tremendous amount of time in emergency situations ranging from gas leaks to shootings. As the University of Alaska Anchorage continues to build on its crisis response capabilities, we will leverage the system as a fundamental component of our communication strategy,” said Pittman.

RESULTS

Emergency notification takes less time and is more effective. The mass notification system enables the UAA Police Department to instantly contact key personnel in emergencies. Since implementation, the system has been used in a variety of situations, such as notifying administration of a building gas leak and sending urgent notices about a fatal shootout-in-progress. Using the system, the police department was able to provide regular updates and instructions regarding the emergencies.

Message delivery is guaranteed without buckling UAA’s IT infrastructure. Because UAA leverages system infrastructure for sending out voice and text communications, the university’s internal IT systems are not impacted, which ensures that the university can communicate with its key audiences during an emergency – regardless of the number of people to be contacted.

Campus response team members spend more time managing the crisis and less time coordinating communications. The UAA police department uses the mass notification system to set up instant conference calls with members of the campus response team. Rather than calling each team member one by one, Chief Pittman can assemble the entire team in minutes, saving a great deal of time.

In the coming months, UAA will be rolling out the rest of the mass notification system to other parts of the university and exploring ways to expand usage of the system to other groups.

For More Information

There is more information on emergency communications and mass notification at Security Magazine's Web site. Visit www.securitymagazine.com. Security editors also cover these and other issues on a daily basis through the Web-based News Service. There are nine channels of news with articles picked for their specific application to the security profession; the news services is in conjunction with LexisNexis.