Inova Solutions Helps Virginia Tech Acquire Instant Emergency Notification Capability

Inova OnAlert® LED displays play integral role in emergency notification plans on college campuses


Executive Summary

Virginia Tech has taken a proactive approach to providing the best possible multi-modal emergency notification coverage to its campus community. Using its innovative VT Alerts system as the backbone, and Inova Solutions' OnAlert LED displays as one of the many modes of communication, Virginia Tech has taken great strides in ensuring the protection and safety of students, faculty, and staff.

A Profile of Virginia Tech

  • Located in Blacksburg, Virginia
  • 29,000+ full-time students
  • 1,300+ full-time instructional faculty
  • Largest full-time student population in Virginia
  • Main campus includes more than 130 buildings, 2,600 acres, and an airport

The Need for a Multi-modal Emergency Response Strategy on College Campuses

In recent years, Americans have witnessed staggering growth in intensity and frequency of campus violence, including the tragedy at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007. Coupled with countless other emergency situations, such as weather and natural disaster-induced trauma, the need for a notifi cation system to effectively and instantly communicate vital information to campus communities has grown exponentially.

Many campus law enforcement and emergency management personnel have taken the first steps in addressing the need to unify communications strategies. Experts agree that, in order to be effective, a holistic mass notification strategy must be both multi-modal and reliable. A mixed media approach to emergency communication has been proven to garner a higher degree of effective response than a one-dimensional approach. For example, supplementing audio alerts with visual alerts is an important step toward creating a comprehensive mass notification program.

Many campus-wide communication strategies have only emerged in recent years, and have yet to be perfected. Failure to utilize multi-modal systems, from SMS/text messaging and email messaging to sirens and visual alerting media, can create dangerous holes and limitations in a unified emergency response strategy. Consider the following limitations of a one-dimensional mobile device approach:

  • Most cell phone towers are ill-equipped to handle the tremendous influx of incoming and outgoing communication traffic as a result of an emergency situation. In some cases, a spike in demand on the wireless communication infrastructure can delay message transmission times by up to two hours.
  • Large buildings, especially academic buildings, are notorious for poor mobile device coverage. In some cases, the use of mobile devices is even prohibited during lectures.

To address these limitations and move toward a holistic solution, many campus safety officials are implementing visual alerting solutions as part of their communications mix.

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