By George Mauzy
Ohio University has activated a new, outdoor emergency notification system on the Athens campus.
Intended to reach people who are outdoors at the time of an emergency, the new system provides the Critical Incident Response Team with a new tool to protect the campus and community.
Other emergency communication methods in place at Ohio University include CATVision alerts, emergency messaging via the Web, e-mail and text message distribution, and an emergency telephone hotline featuring a recorded message.
"Since there is no single communication technique that is entirely reliable or effective on its own, the outdoor notification system is a valuable supplement to the other channels that we have," said David Hopka, Critical Incident Response Team co-chair and assistant vice president for safety and risk management. "The fact that the outdoor notification system can be implemented very rapidly gives it an advantage over many of the other communication channels."
During an emergency, six high-powered speaker clusters can broadcast information and instructions from a designated communication center on campus. The system is designed to broadcast a tone, followed by a pre-recorded message or a live voice.
So that it can activate the system quickly and with consistency, the university has prerecorded 20 messages for a variety of situations, including an active shooter on campus, a bomb threat, a hazardous chemical release or severe weather.
A product of Federal Signal Corp., the system cost about $250,000 to design, construct and install. Specifications and system design began in January, using mobile test equipment to find the best locations for the speakers.
Last week, a Federal Signal representative completed system programming and testing and trained several Ohio University staff members to operate the system.
It will be tested periodically to ensure that it is working properly and to help familiarize the campus community with how the system will operate in an emergency.
In installing the system, the university worked to protect the aesthetics of campus, said Pam Callahan, university planner and director of space management. That's why four of the six speakers were mounted on the roofs of buildings and not pole-mounted in open places.
"Our goal was to minimize the aesthetic impact the speakers had on the built environment," Callahan said. "We did it by finding the most discreet locations that allowed them to function effectively."
The speaker clusters are situated in strategic locations to ensure messages can be heard across campus.
For more information on emergency preparedness, visit the university's emergency page at www.ohio.edu/emergency.
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