Peter Tately, program manager, MNS, Siemens Building Technologies discusses all things mass notification to a roomful of attendees.
Photo credit: Photo courtesy Natalia Kosk
Key panelists presented information on a wide range of topics, from mass notification, to campus life safety awareness and other pertinent issues at the Siemens Campus Emergency Planning Strategies Forum.
Photo credit: Photo courtesy Natalia Kosk
Campus Emergency Planning Strategies Forum, presented by Siemens Industry Inc. last month at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, Rosemont, Ill., provided a informative forum for systems installers, school officials, media and security personnel on emergency planning, mass notification and campus safety awareness.
Presented in an informal format, the tone for the one-day event was an educational forum that included such highlights including: a presentation by Pete Tately on the evolution of emergency communication; a review from Hollis Stambaugh, Center for Public Protection's of her task force's findings on the most notorious school shootings to date NIU, Virginia Tech and Columbine; and a panel discussion (featuring Robert Libby; Pete Tately; Hollis Stambaugh; and Chief of Police Bruce Harrison) addressing key questions from the audience and forum attendees.
"One of the main questions to consider when we look at past events that have shaped the industry, including the Khobar bombing and 9/11 and the formation of the Department of Homeland Security following 9/11, is when will the next event be?" asked Tately. "There will be a next event, we just don't know when."
And whatever that event may be, Tately's presentation gave the clear indication that we need to be ready for it.
"What a lot of education facilities and schools did after the Virginia Tech shooting, is they invested in Web-based alerting," Tately continued. "Yet, only 40 percent of students actually sign up for Web-based services-and many students that do sign up admit to turning their cell phones off during class at school. What's important to consider, is that although Web-based alerting is a great tool, it's not the end-all to beat-all solution."
Organizations need other ways to communicate and one problem that clutters what seems to be a simple task to implement, having some sort of security system in a school, is having an array of products and systems available but not knowing what to do with them.
"Start with some sort of prioritization that you're trying to accomplish within your school," said Tately. "No one is going to put a completely expanded system in place today-it will take time. The important thing to remember is not to let too much technology get in your way. Instead, apply it as it fits to your use. Allow your requirements to drive the communications technology you use-not the other way around."
One of the biggest problems Virginia Tech had was that they had no real capacity or planning in advance to work with families of victims, according to Stambaugh. "And this resulted in a huge liability nightmare for the school. There has to be an emergency team. There has to be a threat assessment and it is important not only to coordinate a plan, but to develop and revise the plan and continue training your personnel," Stambaugh continued.
Forum's Law Enforcement Insights
Check out these insights from Chief Bruce Harrison as he responded to audience members who asked some hard-hitting questions:
Chief Bruce Harrison: "People don't understand the liability until after an event happens-it's a constant effort to change people's ways of thinking."
Chief Harrison: "Shooters are prepared for you too. Kazimerczyk wanted to create his legacy and he wanted to do a lot more than what he was able to. It's not just about instant notification but about having communications systems in place."
Chief Harrison: "In the academic world, things like security are going to grow slowly. Some of the technologies that are available are great but schools are still resistant to them. Technology is great but if you've ever been in a disaster where there is no technology left, you're going to have to fall back on a communicative plan-a plan that identifies some of those necessities that you have to fall back on."
The Discussion Continues
SD&I magazine sat down with Hollis Stambaugh after the event and got more in-depth information on the discussion of mass notification, security protocols on campuses and campus and life safety. Here's what she had to say.
What are the challenges that schools are facing right now, both in general and specifically on the funding side?
Stambaugh: One of the challenges is that incidents are becoming somewhat more frequent and it's important to know how to protect the student body without it feeling like it's an armed encampment where everyone is walking through metal detectors and you've got surveillance cameras in every classroom. It's about reaching some sort of acceptable medium between a general level of comfort in getting to campus and going to and from classes and protecting students while they are there.
The first thing to look at is immediate warning capabilities, processes and authorities. Some schools thought that did the trick; others thought that 'not only do we need the capability and know that we are poised and ready to make a very thorough response using a multi-layered communication, even if it is using the low-tech capabilities [old-fashioned sirens] but they have a place even in the evolving higher tech communication because they are part of that layered system. The sirens get the attention and alert you that something is happening. Another thing that I recommend is that all incoming freshman be required to provide their contact information to receive those alerts or sign a sheet of paper that states, 'I have chosen not to receive any alerts.' I think if they have to sign something like that, that really encourages them to leave their cell phone number with the school.
The second thing important thing is the need for a threat assessment team. You have to have a way to connect the various pieces of information about a student displaying adverent behavior over a period of time and intervening early enough where you can help them if they are a possible threat to the campus.
The third piece is a much more comprehensive emergency plan for the school. Have you addressed a public information officer so you can maintain good communication with the media and also control the information that does get out? A school should be at least three deep in your top positions. There has to be a key person who is responsible for IT and is making all these communication systems work but that just can't be one person; that person has to have a second and a third in command. The head person really ought to be at the emergency operation center doing that 'big picture' coordination with other departments and agencies, getting the info about what is happening elsewhere so they can make the command decisions necessary for their people.
From your experience, is there at least any conversation about having surveillance in place?
Hollis: I think it's just something that has not been acted upon yet because colleges are incredibly slow. Everything is decided by committees. But you have to keep that sense of urgency present; it's very easy to get distracted and move on to other things and not remain vigilant to some of these remaining pieces that need to be put on campus. But there are exceptions to every rule.
Are schools and some of these larger campus environments approaching security systems in schools and having them in place versus just having an emergency plan in the case of an incident like Virginia Tech or Columbine?
Hollis: Unfortunately, not enough. There always has to be a communicative approach. You are talking about an environment at a college where kids are technically adults and you've got an open campus. So the idea of having visual surveillance runs contrary to the mentality on those campuses. I agree that having a surveillance camera in every hall in dorms would be quite intrusive and very 'big brother.' But I can find no reasonable objection to having surveillance cameras at the entrances to buildings, especially dorms.
NEW NAME, FOCUS ON SOLUTIONS AT ISC EAST
The Security Industry Association's (SIA) CEO Richard Chace announced a new format for ISC East, November 3 through 4 in New York City. The show is a collaborative event produced by Reed Exhibitions and SIA. Chace said the ISC East event is changing its name to ISC Solutions, and instead of being a booths-and-new-products show like the current ISC West show the focus will be on developing the show as a "solutions focused" entity that is designed more for security end users and systems integrators looking for full solutions and systems by vertical market. Visit isceast.com.
SentryNet Takes Dealers Beyond the Recession Blues
Over 100 alarm dealers attended SentryNet's two day annual meeting, held at the Isle of Capri Hotel and Casino located at the foot of the bridge across the Mississippi River from Lula, Mississippi to Helena, Arkansas. In addition to CEU credits, the conference was focused on providing dealers with information, technology and experience from a variety of speakers on a variety of topics.
David Avritt, president of SentryNet, welcomed all and kicked off the meeting. He congratulated the dealers for surviving the recent economic meltdown working hard, keeping their current customer base of RMR, and offering SentryNet Enhanced Services to existing and new customers alike.
Gordon Hope, chairman of the Board of Directors at the Security Industry Association (SIA) and vice president at Honeywell brought the group to immediate attention with a lively discussion on where communication in our industry is going. Gordon told the dealers that "a sea of change is rapidly transforming how people communicate, and security professionals who don't embrace this transformation are putting their businesses at risk."
A panel discussion of leading edge technology manufacturers followed, featuring Jackie O'Neil of Visonic, Jerry Phillips of AES-IntelliNet, Ben Kallas of Videofied and Jack McCurdy of Emizon. Dealers voiced great interest in the new technologies and the discussion focused on marketing concepts for these specialized services. The group presented opportunities for developing new RMR from existing subscribers and finding an entire new marketplace for security professionals with these new technologies. Their discussions were focused on who to sell to and how to sell rather than the details of the products.
Ron Walters of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC) brought everyone up-to-date on legislation around the country and the efforts of SIAC on our behalf to implement model ordinances across the country. His presentation focused on the efforts of dispatch reduction by manufacturers and central stations.
A second panel discussion featured panel members chosen from the dealers themselves. Residential, commercial, big city, and rural dealers were represented on the panel. They talked about their experiences through the recession and what they did to survive and even thrive while others were watching their businesses lose ground.
Notifier Provides Fire & Life Safety Systems Financing Program
Notifier by Honeywell introduced a financing program to assist facility owners with the expense of new fire and life safety systems and ECS systems' upgrades to existing systems mandated by code. The new financing program, maintained by LEAF Financial Corporation, offers simple documentation and fast results with live, one-on-one support from local LEAF representatives. The new program's flexible loan and leasing options enable Notifier engineered systems distributors throughout the U.S. to offer an affordable means for the expansion or upgrade of existing fire/life safety systems.
"Local and national fire alarm codes are becoming more inclusive of a wider array of technologies, including emergency communications systems," said Frank Tomberlin, vice president of sales for NOTIFIER. "Facility managers have to start planning for these eventual hardware and software upgrades, which in today's economy is tough. That's why NOTIFIER decided to bring-onboard such an aggressive lease and loan initiative."
The financing program is ideal for grade schools and university campuses planning to install a state-of-the-art emergency communications system with distributed recipient mass notification (i.e. emails, texts, computer pop-up alerts, etc.). A high-rise or multi-building property maintaining a series of obsolete systems plagued by false alarms could lease or finance up to 100 percent of the installation, equipment and service for a new fire & life safety system.