Digital signs to improve security

Communication ‘critical’ in emergency response plan

22 new screens will be used to alert students in emergencies.
22 new screens will be used to alert students in emergencies.

Emergency response is a vital component of the network of flat screen TVs being installed around campus later this month, said Marketing and Communications director Richard Seres.

“Virginia Tech really galvanized the importance of having these things,” he said.

In April, 32 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University students and faculty members were killed on campus.

David Patterson, Campus Security director, said the system is just one medium to reach students in the event on an emergency.

“We’re looking at all opportunities for mass notification,” he said.

Campus Security has authorization to post emergency messaging on the screens at any time, he said, and doesn’t need to go through IT Services to do so.

“Since the tragedy at Virginia Tech this past April, this is an opportunity for us to tap into that new service,” Patterson said.

Vice-Principal (Operations and Finance) Andrew Simpson said the digital screens are meant to enhance information-sharing across campus.

“I think that adds to the array of potential communication devices that you have in the event of an emergency,” he said, adding that it would be wrong to think that digital signage would be singularly sufficient.

“Not everybody’s going to be in front of one of those 22 screens at that time,” he said. “What you’re really looking to put together is an array of potential response mechanisms in the event of that kind of emergency. But communication is critical, and it’s something that we’re very focused on.”

Simpson said the University is trying to develop a strategy adaptable to changing situations and is always learning from events like the tragedy at Virginia Tech, he said.

“What I want to make clear is that our review is really in a way a continuous review.” One of the most critical issues is deciding how to respond when there is a violent offender at large on campus.

“The challenge is how do you communicate across a very wide campus with such a volume of students, faculty, staff, and what is the message that you send in response?”

The University is looking at a range of options besides the installation of the digital screens, including a public address system across campus and video surveillance.

“Other campuses have a very high number of either live or recorded video occurring on campus all that time as a detractor from an individual wanting to do something, whether it be a simple theft situation, or whether it be something more violent,” Simpson said.

Wilfred Laurier University invested $175,000 over the past two years in a video-surveillance system, along with a records-management system and a communications system.

According to an article published on in April, the RCMP is collecting aerial photographs and blueprints of elementary and secondary schools across the country in response to school shootings, and they plan to do the same for universities and colleges when that project was completed.

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