by Ward Mullens, Published August 04, 2010
YPSILANTI - Unfortunately, college and university campuses are not immune to natural disasters and other emergencies.
Notifying the campus about an emergency and providing instructions about how to respond can be the difference between life and death.
"We have to be able to reach people in an effective and timely manner," said EMU Police Chief Greg O'Dell.
Recently, Eastern Michigan University implemented a new mass notification and emergency communication system, which can communicate to certain buildings or entire section of campus.
"This is one part of our total system," said O'Dell. "This system is meant to work in conjunction with the voice-over fire alarm system, RAVE (the emergency text messaging system), and our other messaging systems."
"Depending on the severity of the situation and the location, the dispatcher can select an individual building to notify or broadcast to the entire main campus," said Mark Wesley, director of emergency management at Eastern Michigan.
The array consists of seven different speaker clusters around the main campus, with one at the convocation center. The speakers are located at Goddard, King, and Phelps halls, along with Halle Library, the Student Center and the sculpture studio.
The system would only be activated in the event of a campus emergency, Wesley said. A campus emergency is defined as any event that poses an immediate threat to the health and safety of a large portion of the campus community.
Currently, Wesley is working to develop pre-recorded messages for specific scenarios. Those scenarios include campus-wide evacuation, police emergency, campus closure, specific building evacuation and a tornado warning.
In the event of an emergency, the public address systems would be activated and the campus community would hear, "Attention, Attention!" followed by the type of emergency and any instructions needed. The message would repeat three times.
"The outdoor address system would be the best way to reach those people who may be out on campus and not already receiving the message through the RAVE system," O'Dell said. "This new piece really enhances our ability to spread information over the campus as fast as possible."
Wesley said that the system would be tested at least twice a year.