New emergency alert system installed

By Mandy Treccia

Columbia students will see something new around campus as they return to classes this fall-a newly installed emergency alert system.

Over the summer, 3,000 LCD screens, speakers and flashing lights were installed in all of Columbia’s buildings as part of the Alert Wave System, which will be used to alert students on campus of an emergency.

“The system is in every building in classrooms, hallways, lecture halls and gathering spaces,” said Mark Lloyd, associate vice president of Marketing Communication.

“We send a wireless signal to those units and there’s a visual display board and an auditory speaker system that allows messages to be delivered,” Lloyd said. “There’s a flashing light system to alert people to the delivery of the message.”

Lloyd said the college looked at a variety of systems. AWS had been used in other locations, including Benedictine University in Lisle, Ill., the site Columbia administrators visited when they were considering which system to purchase for campus.

“We’ve never had this capability before, and we are really pleased to raise the bar on that sort of safety provisions,” said Alicia Berg, vice president of Campus Environment.

Berg said the system is all part of the process to ensure the school can communicate with the entire community if there is a security breach.

Lloyd said the crises at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University were factors in the decision to add the new system.

“We were trying to be proactive, but the fact of the matter is, we’ve seen evidence [of these kinds of situations] very close to home and we wanted to be as prepared as possible,” Lloyd said. “It did take those tragedies to remind us of what we could do to make the campus an even safer place.”

Ashley Perrin, a junior television major, recently transferred to Columbia from Western Illinois University. She said WIU had a phone system that could not reach everyone if there was a threat. Columbia’s new system makes her feel more safe.

“This way everyone knows right away and automatically sees the message and important information of what to do and where to go,” Perrin said.

Martha Meegan, director of Campus Safety and Security, said she thinks the new system will be a great supplement to the mass notification system already in place.

The AWS takes the place of systems with intercom capability in modern buildings, Meegan said, but is better because it has a visual display.

“It can be suitable for [the] hearing impaired as well,” Meegan said. “It’s not just the strobe light flashing that’s an indication that something is happening. You’ve got a visual message.”

Meegan said Columbia has identified the best security practices out there, implemented them and continues to seek and implement even more.

“We do a good job in emergency preparedness,” Meegan said.