Using DS to keep a campus safe

July 18, 2008 by Dave Haynes

You can tell alot about the quality of the presentations at a conference by how many people are firing up their laptops and fiddling about with their BlackBerries.

Suffice to say, there was a fair amount of idle email checking this morning during the opening presentations at the Strategy Institute’s conference here in Las Vegas, where it is just slightly cooler than the sun.

You get people who are not on message, who just want to talk about their job frustrations (one woman from the Navy went on and on about how there’s too much email in her office), or just go on and on with PowerPoint slides with a LOT of text.

Anyway, there was one guy who was very good – and he was a cop.

Montclair State University in New Jersey is using digital signage to help get the word around about school activities, and when there are security issues and threats, the screens are a prime avenue to disseminate messages and move people around.

Campus police chief Paul Cell related how his campus uses a number of tools like mobile handset text messaging, email and LED boards, but saw LCD screens — particular portable ones that could be moved around — as another way to get the word out as needed.

The things he likes about the technology:
– targeting by facility (he related how they used the software to get a bomb threat notice out to just one building, not the whole campus)
– breaking down language barriers for international students
– the instant capability to update messages

One thing he has learned with these varied platforms is the importance to control the messengers. Cell related how the campus used to have multiple groups firing out e-mails to students about pretty much anything. Eventually, it started to seem like spam and people weren’t reading the stuff.

“We created a policy that all communications come from one central source,” explains Cell, adding there are now just four people who have the authority to send out messages.

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