PLU’s New Emergency Notification System Goes Online
1st Test of Outdoor Speakers Scheduled for March 10 Fire Drill
By Sandy Deneau Dunham
PLU Marketing & Communications
TACOMA, Wash. (March 4, 2015)—When you hear a big, booming voice in the sky on March 10, it (probably) won’t be A Message From Above. But it is a message Campus Safety hopes you’ll learn and heed: That voice will come through PLU’s new outdoor speaker system, part of a larger, and also new, Emergency Notification System.
On Tuesday, it’ll be tested for the first time on the Pacific Lutheran University campus to sound the all-clear for a scheduled fire drill.
More broadly, the system—which includes eight directional outdoor stadium speakers tied to Metis Help Station interior devices, all on Upper Campus—will increase PLU’s capacity to respond to the campus community and the public during emergencies and natural disasters.
“We are the first university to tie our outdoor speakers into the system,” said Greg Premo, director of Campus Safety. “Most universities use the emergency ‘Blue Phones’ for outdoor notification, but that route would have been very costly since we would have had to add a lot of new cabling, power and other installation costs.”
The new Metis system, funded in part by a $15,000 grant from the Puget Sound Energy Foundation, provides greater, quicker campuswide coverage and reliable digital technology.
“Those poles had been around for 25 years,” Premo said. “They ran on an old modem system. We had 16 with speakers, and we could dial only four at a time. It sometimes took up to five minutes to reach all of them.”
Phase One of the Emergency Notification System project wrapped up at the end of January with the installation of eight interior devices—one each in the Anderson University Center, the Mortvedt Library, the Hauge Administration Building and the Wang Center for Global Education, and four in Olson Auditorium. These devices act as “call for help” boxes as well as speakers to announce emergency messages inside the buildings. With the exception of the four in Olson, each device also is wired to an external speaker that now allows campus officials to send messages to students, staff and guests outdoors. PLU hopes to add additional interior devices and outdoor speakers across campus in coming years.
The new system is equipped with command-center software that includes a mapping component: When a help station is activated, it automatically appears on a map at the Campus Safety command center to indicate which device was activated. This establishes a ready line of communication between the Campus Safety office and the user of the help station. All calls for help are recorded.
“If one is activated, it gives the Communication Officer direct access to the building’s floor plans,” Premo said. “We can tell the floor and the building and fill in emergency contacts. “
Premo said all Campus Safety staff and student workers have been trained on the system.
During a test run of one of the units in Olson, the computer monitor above Campus Safety Officer Shawn Thompson flashed a can’t-miss “request for help” notification.
So far this year, Premo said, no one has activated the system for real—but the outdoor speakers are queued for their debut on Tuesday.
“Everyone will hear them and say, ‘What’s that?’” Premo said.