Safety & Security (Prepare and Be Aware)

Build Your Own Mass Notification System

If you build your own mass notification system, you will have a deep understanding of how to use it and manage it.

That’s what Tidewater Community College has done. With offices in Norfolk, VA, Tidewater has seven campuses — four main campuses and three specialty campuses — serving 42,000 students.

“We’ve developed our system over a number of years,” says George Okaty, director of safety and security with Tidewater. “We’re actually putting in a third system right now.

“We have a Cooper Notification system for text alerts and email notifications. We also have a Valcom system with outdoor speakers mounted on buildings across all seven Tidewater campuses.

“The external speaker system has a live capability — a microphone that the provost or security staff can use to make a timely notification. We can also activate the system remotely through pre-programmed emergency messages on each campus. We test the speakers once a month to make sure they are operational and to make sure the staff knows how to use them.”

Tidewater’s third mass notification system is being installed now. It is a Cisco classroom telephone system. Each classroom will get a phone.

“The goal is to give classrooms the ability to speed-call security for assistance or 911,” says Okaty. “We’re also installing new software to use for emergency messaging into the classrooms. This will be a situational awareness system — we’ll be able to get messages to one or several buildings, one floor and even one room.”

This article originally appeared in the May 2015 issue of College Planning & Management.

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