:“Yes, HAL. Open the Quad Bay Doors.”
How advancements in emergency service technologies are keeping campuses safer
- By Mark Fletcher
- July 01, 2017
RECENTLY, THE EUROPEAN EMERGENCY NUMBER
ASSOCIATION (EENA) IN BRUSSELS, AND THE NATIONAL
EMERGENCY NUMBER ASSOCIATION (NENA) IN THE
UNITED STATES ANNOUNCED A NEW COLLABORATION
THAT WILL ULTIMATELY TRANSFORM HOW FIRST
RESPONDERS HELP SAVE LIVES.
The collaboration is expected to replace legacy first responder systems
developed and deployed in the 1960s and 1970s. These aging
systems, built many years before the existence of the Internet, are isolated
and disparate islands of connectivity, built on platforms that are
not capable of accepting the current modes of communications used
by citizens around the world, let alone interconnect the more than
6,000 911 centers across the United States.
So, what does this mean for the future of public safety, and more
specifically, campus security?
NO TWO EMERGENCIES ARE
CREATED EQUAL – NOR THE SOLUTIONS
In today’s world, emergency communications and notifications are not
necessarily specific “systems”, but an ecosystem of various systems, procedures and protocols making up a solution, designed to provide a uniform command-and-control response to specific emergency conditions.
For campus environments, the primary components of a solution would
be alerting, status tracking, and a mechanism of measuring the effectiveness
of the response once the emergency condition is cleared.
Solutions are specific to the environment, and can be as simple as
overhead paging, lights, sirens or other mechanisms deemed appropriate.
In some cases phone call alerts may be the most appropriate, where
in other environments visual indications are most effective. The art of
designing an effective emergency notification solution for first
responders is to understand the specific use case behind the event
itself, who needs to be evacuated, who needs to respond, and what
information will make those evacuations and responses more effective.
WHY CAN UBER FIND ME, BUT 911 CAN’T?
Clearly, the digital evolution has taken a firm grasp on society. With
less than 50 percent of households having landline telephones, according
to the CTIA, mobile device saturation in the US is at an all-time
high of 114 percent. Quite simply, that means that more than one
device currently exists for every person in the US.
Personal communications devices have become the primary technology
used by individuals. With the exception of areas of poor reception,
BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) has made the common device
citizens reach for to be their mobile phone. While this doesn’t directly
impact the internal emergency calling systems that have been put in
place, it certainly minimizes their use to some degree.
The problem for an enterprise is when it tries to track devices not
attached to its network. Because they cannot find something they cannot
see, the task becomes almost impossible. While many view a quick
and easy solution to bridge these networks being an app installed on
mobile devices, human nature still precludes the actual use of those
apps, as we are ingrained with dialing 911 in the event of an emergency.
When those calls occur, the internal communications network
is completely blind to that emergent event taking place on the external
Fortunately, new technologies are being developed and vetted that
will allow these events to be merged, either within the enterprise or the
carrier network. Once this happens, intelligent, collaborative communications
can then take place between those networks, as well as an
advance share of information. In Next Generation 911 networks, this
premise is accomplished by logic called “geo-fencing”. When an emergency
event takes place within a particular area, information about the
communication session, such as an alert of the event, is easily shared
with the private network responsible for that area, and the private network
can then share additional relevant information back with the
public safety agency.
Enabling this data flow is the NG911 Emergency Services IP Network,
also known as an ESInet. This purpose built network allows an
intelligent IP-based session to occur between the origination network
and the termination networks. Once established, data can freely pass
in either direction. Sharing valuable multimedia information such as
floor plans, video feeds, or other relevant data is easily accomplished
between authorized and interested parties that will help facilitate the
BEYOND 911 - KEEPING CAMPUSES SAFE
Many colleges and universities run their own police departments and
provide a multitude of student services from late evening security
escorts to vehicle lockouts, and to physical security in and around
campus buildings. It is also common for students to know and memorize
the local contact number for campus security whether it’s a four
or five digit extension number, or a 10-digit public switched telephone
Calls from known devices, such as bluelight phones located
around the campus or fixed telephones within buildings, can be identified
through caller ID, and then after referencing location from
internal databases, appropriated resources can then be presented to
the campus security officer answering that call. The location of AED
devices, first-aid kits or even video cameras including angle of view,
are all contextual information that allow campus public safety to do
their job better.
The SENTRY solution from Conveyant Systems, along with intelligent
SIP endpoints from Algo Communications, through Avaya’s
Select DevConnect Partner Program, provide flexible deployment
options for almost any environment, as well as critical situational
awareness. After rigorous use case evaluation and product testing in
Avaya’s Smart Campus lab, these preconfigured solutions were made
available to the field for deployment in specific verticals such as campus
and education markets. Specific use cases built around notification,
evacuation, lockdown, and reverse evacuation automate the initiation
and workflow associated with an emergent event.
Using a single press of a button, or by dialing a special authorized
code, authorized staff members can trigger lights, alarms, and audible
announcements that will immediately direct individuals to evacuate a
facility, or go into lockdown, saving valuable seconds that could mean
the matter of life and death.
West Chester University in Pennsylvania, recently deployed the
Conveyant Systems SENTRY emergency response solution in their
campus emergency call center. Now, when any station on the campus
PBX system dials 911, or the campus 10 digit number for security,
information about the location of the call is immediately displayed to
campus police. This information enables them to shave valuable seconds
off of the response time for on-campus incidents, as well as
understand the location of a possible emergency event without the
caller even having to speak.
IT’S ONLY GOING TO GET SAFER
I believe the next major evolution within public safety, will be the
adoption of video endpoints within existing network elements. Cameras
are now incredibly small, and carry astonishing resolution capabilities.
Networks have become more intelligent, and technologies such
as Shortest Path Bridging, allow IT administrators to run video over
network segments without the fear of creating congestion blocking
other crtitical applications. This, coupled with the advancements in
artificial intelligence and natural language speech processing, will
allow the intelligence already inherent in systems to rapidly increase
over the next 5 to 10 years. If you’re a security officer on a university
campus in five years, you may just hear this:
“I’m detecting a disturbance on the north side of
the Quad. Shall I present you with a video feed so
you can assess the situation?”
“Yes, Hal. Open the Quad bay doors. . . .”
This article originally appeared in the July 2017 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.