College District Streamlines Emergency Phone Systems
By Alek Kireyenka
The Chabot-Las Positas Community College District in California serves a large part of the San Francisco East Bay Area. The district, which runs Chabot College in Hayward and Las Positas College in Livermore, serves nearly 25,000 students and employs nearly 2,000 administrators.
To accommodate the growing number of staff and students, both colleges have progressively added to their infrastructure in recent years.
With these new expansion projects comes the challenging task of upgrading the colleges’ emergency communication and response systems. Chabot and Las Positas colleges are operated separately from each other. Each has its own administrators and staff, specifically public safety representatives and officers.
Chabot wanted to install a product that could provide a communication tool for both their students and police officers. Its 94-acre site is in the center of the suburban Hayward community, and heavy pedestrian traffic navigates through and around the campus daily.
Nathan Moore, Emergency Preparedness Liaison for Chabot College, elaborated on its choice:
“The college’s main objective was to improve communications in and around campus,” he said. “We made the switch because we wanted a system that could allow us to broadcast messages from our call center and messages spoken directly through the units with a microphone in the back.”
Chabot College has installed Talk-A-Phone emergency phones throughout the campus parking lots and recreational areas with heavy student traffic. Included are blue-light towers, as well as smaller pedestal mounts equipped with the WEBS mass notification speakers.
In case of an emergency, these units allow students not only to instantly connect with Chabot security, but also allow security to reach out to the entire campus community using the WEBS Contact mass notification platform.
Taking into consideration the long history of earthquakes and wildfires in California, it was a no-brainer for Moore and the rest of the Chabot College police to choose these devices as a key communication tool during an emergency. He elaborated:
“We wanted a system that could help us better organize our response and communication with the community,” Moore said. “These units have done just that. They help let the community know what’s going on during a drill or actual emergency. We wanted to create a safe environment.”
A key feature of the blue-light emergency tower is that it allows easy integration of audio broadcasting, emergency communication and video surveillance. The system is extremely flexible and allows security authorities to broadcast live and pre-recorded messages through individual units or multiple zones.
During the planning phase, it became apparent that the emergency phone tower would allow Chabot security to use mass notification, individual response and video surveillance capabilities in one cohesive tool.
While the new units are in full force at Chabot, Las Positas Community College wanted to match emergency communication capabilities with that of its sister school, said Sean Prather, its Head of Campus Safety.
Las Positas’ older emergency call boxes and towers were hard to locate and didn’t offer mass notification capabilities. Prather chose to upgrade the campus with new units, because they were easily identifiable and offered several different delivery options for mass notification.
The units, also from Talk-A-Phone, have been extremely reliable, and easy to learn and operate for students and officers. Prather said, “We’ve had the new units for about three years. We used to get false alarms with our older products, but with this system, we’ve never experienced any problems.”
Once an emergency wall mount or a tower is activated, both the person who activated a phone and campus security must have clear and undisrupted communication with each other.
The problem with other emergency communication units was that the person placing a call would have to press and hold a button to talk. This limitation posed a risk because, in most emergencies, it’s not realistic for an individual to continue to press a button every time they need to communicate.
The installation of new units fixed this problem, as a person now has to press the emergency button only once to have continuous communication, Prather said.
Additionally, he has been able to integrate all the new units with the college’s camera and access control systems. Prather mentioned additional integration capabilities in regard to his officer’s radios.
“When a unit is activated, a signal is sent to every officer’s radio. The nearest one can then respond to the activation, Prather said. “Perks like these have allowed us to drastically reduce our response time.”
Las Positas college’s Prather concluded: “I’ve heard nothing but good feedback from the campus community. I think [the units have] been a huge benefit to our campus.”
Chabot college’s Moore added: “The new system has been very beneficial to our campus [as well]. There’s definitely room for more, and we’re happy that they show the community we’re looking out for their welfare.”
Contact Alek Kireyenka, Talk-A-Phone Co. Marketing Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article Abstract from September, 2012