“Yes, HAL. Open the Quad Bay Doors.”

:“Yes, HAL. Open the Quad Bay Doors.”

How advancements in emergency service technologies are keeping campuses safer


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?


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.


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 communications network.

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 appropriate response.


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 number.

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.


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:
“Hello Dave.”
“Yes, Hal?”
“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.

Digital Edition

  • Campus Security & Life Safety Magazine - November / December 2022

    November / December 2022


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