Crisis management for campus safety: Top tips for CIOs

Greg Kovich
October 03, 2018

Ensuring that critical crisis management tools are available and accessible in the event of a campus emergency.

One of the primary responsibilities of any CIO in a business or organization is to make sure that the infrastructure is ready for the applications and daily demands of the institution. However, if you’re the CIO of a university or higher ed institution, you have at least one additional responsibility: ensuring that critical crisis management tools are available and accessible in the event of a campus emergency.

I recently ran into Kevin Kelleher—the CEO of ICON Voice Networks and an ALE distributor and product development partner—and we chatted about a constant theme for us whenever we get together: campus safety.  Kevin mentioned that one of the concerns he hears most from higher ed CIOs is how to manage and integrate multiple communication and IT network assets on campus to make students and faculty safer—essentially, how to respond more quickly and effectively in an emergency.

Aerial view of crowd for campus emergency blog post

These assets can range from video surveillance networks, voice communication systemsand alert notifications to sensor networks that detect intrusions, fire and smoke. At many universities, these systems have grown organically over time—department by department, building by building—without being integrated,and with no mechanism to centrally monitor or manage them. Additionally, in most university environments, all of this critical data and communication is expected to travel across aging and disparate 802.11 WiFi networks that also don’t have central management tools.

As a result, most universities have a fragmented communication and data network underlying their emergency response infrastructures. This IT hodgepodge creates the strong possibility of confusion, miscommunication and delay if a crisis does occur on campus. Scary!

In the face of these challenges, maybe it’s no surprise that some higher ed administrators have deployed mass notification systems. These systems push out instantaneous notifications, usually in the form of SMS texts, email, and phone or social media alerts.  These notifications allow university officialsto alert students and faculty in a particular quadrant of the campus about a gas leak, or contact the entire university community at once, as might be necessary to warn of impending severe weather or zombie apocalypse.

However, creating a “safer campus” is NOT the same asreacting to an event through mass notification. You also need smart infrastructure in place that centrally monitors IoT security networks, and immediately alerts the right officials about emergency events. The ability to coordinate and collaborate with emergency first responders ensures a swift and efficient response: delivering alerts and messages to affected groups on a variety of devices and with different modes (including broadcast messages from loudspeakers) is the foundation for crisis management and a safer campus.

Police car for blog post on campus safety

Delivering this multi-pronged approach to campus safety requires a unified communications platform that employs artificial intelligence (AI) to integrate data and communications from multiple sources, and coordinates multi-channel alerts to notify the right people at the right time in the right place.

The key features of this smart infrastructure include:

•  Automated management of alarms and notifications from IoT sensor networks. On a typical university campus, sensor networks monitor a range of security and safety systems such as door locks, motion detectors, security cameras, fire sprinklers, and thermometers in freezers—whatever you need  monitored, can be monitored. When a sensor reading is out of parameter, an alert is automatically sent to the appropriate person or team.

•  A single dashboard that brings together all campus security data, images, maps, alerts and communication interfaces. An all-in-one view of all pertinent data allows security officials to monitor all information and systems (including video surveillance), to improve responsiveness.

•  The ability to monitor, listen to and record 911/112 emergency calls. Campus security officials can silently monitor, listen and record emergency calls that originate on campus telephony systems to improve response time.

•  The ability to coordinate and collaborate with first responders. An AI-based unified communications crisis management platform can directly link to third-party emergency response systems, allowing campus officials to coordinate and collaborate with police, fire fighters or en-route emergency medical technicians. Campus officials can help ensure that first responders get to emergency locations as quickly as possible by sharing all pertinent information, including video surveillance, building layout maps, and localized information from the security control panel dashboard.

•  Historical reporting and call recording for post incident analytics. Administration and security personnel can replay and analyze past emergency scenarios—with immediate access to detailed call and communication logs—to help develop best practices and improve future crisis response.

As my friend Kevin noted during our conversation, a large part of crisis management is the ability to make your assets work together to provide a better experience and deliver greater value. For CIOs, this means looking at their institution’s digital communications environment not as stand-alone components like WLAN, LAN, IP telephony, and building management, but as a synergistic whole. This broader vision includes WLAN BLE beacons providing location information; LAN equipment features that automatically protect the communications infrastructure from bandwidth starvation and cyberattack; IP telephony systems as a conduit for audio alerts; and environmental management systems in buildings as another tool to obtain early warnings about systemic problems.

For any CIO in a university setting, bringing these assets and systems together isn’t just for efficiency and ease of management: In an emergency, your crisis management platform employing AI-based unified communications has to perform…everytime.

To learn more about digital transformation and campus safety, contact Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise.

Greg Kovich

Greg Kovich

Global Sales Lead, Education Vertical

Greg Kovich leads global sales for ALE’s Education vertical.  Greg has overseen or created several Education solutions including “The Fundamentals of Communications” – a vendor neutral course on digital network communications; “Safe Campus” – a solution uniting emergency alerts with first responder collaboration and mass notification; “Secure Campus” – a solution that allows instructors to limit student network access to determined sites; and “Pandemic Education Continuity” – a solution that enables classroom instruction in the event the institution is closed due to health or environmental crisis. 

He is a 1992 graduate of Indiana University with over 20 yrs experience in Information Technology.

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