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Communication the Key for Campuses

We have seen the nature of emergency events on campuses in the United States change drastically during the past couple of decades. The Virginia Tech massacre can be considered the 9/11 for higher education environments. The tragedy resulted in a clarion call, a demand that strong action be taken to better secure our campuses.

More than ever, the boards of universities, colleges and other schools have made safety and security a prime concern. Parents are asking educators more pointed questions about how safe they can expect their children to be in the campus environment. They want to know if the campus is equipped in all aspects of safety mitigation and prevention, emergency preparedness, response and recovery.

Clearly there is more we can be doing to prevent or at least minimize the crimes perpetrated by individuals with bad intentions. For example, research has shown that in a very high percentage of campus emergencies like shootings, bomb threats, thefts, arson and rapes, the perpetrator has shown a prior history of similar behavior. The question I am raising is if there is history behind human-caused emergencies on campuses then we need to capture that information with a goal to prevent similar events. This quote from Albert Einstein really is applicable when we think about securing our campuses:

“Intelligent people solve problems; geniuses prevent them.”

Within the campus community, it can be difficult to track events as they unfold; even more complex is the ability to determine what behaviors and actions can lead to an emergency situation. Neither campus police nor security personnel are able to track and identify the suspicious activity of individuals who do not belong on the grounds. The way to possibly prevent criminal behavior and emergencies is to capture and accumulate tips related to suspicious activity and send the info to campus police or security personnel.

This can be easily enabled by Web and mobile technologies, allowing the stakeholders (staff, students, vendors, etc.) to submit a tip online or via text messaging and E-mail. We can also manage this type of information by using tip management tools and, therefore, have a better chance at resolving a potentially dangerous situation. For the police chief and campus safety directors, an executive dashboard (computer interface that displays the information) and analytical tools can be very useful to continue to track the tips and the progress on resolving the situation.

Campus administrations need to be aware of the grant funding opportunities to pay for this type of technology. The Higher Education Act (HR 4137: College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2008), which was signed into law in August, includes language that allows for such funding. HR 4137 affords higher education institutions to use grant money to establish a “hotline” that allows a student or staff member to report another individual who may potentially be a danger to others.

The Web-based hotline approach will be key to preventing criminal activity and acts of violence. For integrators and dealers this solution could be another product in your offerings to campuses. There is also potential to integrate with video surveillance and other security systems.

Consider this quote from an anti-terrorism official in support of this kind of technology for campuses: “The ability to gather information, sift through it to find what is useful intelligence, and then rapidly get that information to the right people, can and has made the difference between tragedy and that tragedy being averted.”

Cyril Rayan is president and CEO of Santa Clara, Calif.-based Resiligence Inc., a provider of mass notification solutions for the campus environment. He can be contacted at (408) 282-3589 or via E-mail, [email protected].

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