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Community Colleges Less Likely to Implement Layered Notification Systems

10/19/2011 -

Community colleges are known for their flexibility, often serving students coming for two-year degrees and hoping to transfer to four-year schools or students who are already in the workforce and looking to further their education. For this reason, community colleges are increasingly offering a wider range of classes online.

But for these same reasons, community colleges are less likely to implement layered emergency notification systems, according to awhite paper published last month by Siemens.

The white paper analyzed the annual security reports for 77 public, private, and community colleges from each of the four regions of the United States. The report identified four types of mass notification systems in use by institutions. “At Your Side” methods included text message and email notification, the university Web site, blogs, internal portals, and call-in hotlines. “Inside” methods included PA systems, digital signage, fire alarms, and tone alerts. “Outside” methods were outdoor PA systems, warning sirens, and emergency phones. Siemens included an additional category it called, “Extended,” that included social media notification using Facebook and Twitter and other ways not listed in other categories.

Siemens found that all of the colleges examined used at least one of these ways to communicate with the campus during an emergency. Overall, however, the study found community colleges were less likely to use layered emergency notification systems. Seventy-five percent used just one or two of the described methods—most relying on Web-based communications.

Pitt Community College (PCC), a community college that serves nearly 8,500 students in Eastern North Carolina plus continuing education students, is one such example. Rick Owens, assistant vice president of Information Technology and Services at PCC, said the school primarily uses text messaging, email, and online based systems like social media and RSS Feeds for its mass notifications.

“We needed some way to reach a large number of students in a short time period, thus the SMS requirement,” he told Security Management. “We do use some digital signage, but our current viewpoint is that SMS is the fastest and most reliable way to reach our students.”

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