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Local colleges use advanced technology to warn students about campus emergencies

April 19, 2013
Author: Deborah Todd
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"You cannot underestimate the value of technological developments that are occurring in life safety systems," said Mark Kurtzrock, CEO of Oakmont-based security technology company Metis Secure Solutions. "It's imperative that organizations have very good security plans and contingency plans, but one critical element is how quickly can we get information to people."

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In the greater Pittsburgh area, at least three schools have added security technologies from Metis that go beyond text and email alerts, said Mr. Kurtzrock. He said Point Park University, Carnegie Mellon University and Slippery Rock University are all using the Metis Secure Solutions' software, an interactive indoor/outdoor emergency notification system.

Working off the company's Command Center Software, which features interactive campus maps, officials are able to simultaneously send out text and email alerts while also activating lights, alarms, digital signs, public address systems and pre-recorded voice commands instructing crowds how to respond during emergencies. Two-way emergency help boxes located throughout campuses connect directly to the command center and its related cameras to hone in on areas where callers report trouble. Administrators can send out targeted alerts to specific buildings or areas that face emergency situations without evacuating an entire campus.

The entire system is linked to a "redundant communications and power network" that uses a mix of Ethernet and other technologies for power during energy outages.

Madelyn Miller, director of health and safety at Carnegie Mellon University, said the school started using the technology in high-security areas near Mellon Institute in 2006, but have since installed call boxes in Dithridge Garage. She said the variety of notifications in the system helps universities get past the hurdle of trying to send tens of thousands of emails and text messages in a single moment.

Read the entire article here.