Case Study - Virginia Western Community College

Uses SARA to Power Lockdown Notification System

Opportunity

Virginia Western Community College (VWCC) is a two-year public college on 70 acres in Roanoke and the largest single-campus college in the Virginia Community College System, serving more than 13,000 students. Three false alarms had sent VWCC and a neighboring elementary school into lockdowns, creating unnecessary panic and media attention, so the college needed a new system to notify students, faculty, staff and local media of an actual threat while avoiding false alarms. It also had to integrate with the Cisco Systems telephone system in all buildings, classrooms and more than 30 emergency pull stations for paging and 911 notifications.

“Obviously a lockdown notification system is invaluable if just one life is saved. Status Solutions helped us create the system that we needed, and SARA does what it’s supposed to do. Plus we’ve found that SARA will enable us to add capabilities without significant additional costs.”
– Doug Parsons, VWCC’s Network and Security Administrator 

Solution

VWCC was able to create a 24-7 lockdown notification system powered by the SARA alerting engine. If an emergency is called in via one of the Cisco phones or if an emergency pull station is activated, SARA automatically sets in motion a series of notifications to enhance campus safety. These include the lockdown siren with accompanying instructions broadcast through all of the college’s Cisco phones, as well as public address speakers in the cafeteria and other high-traffic areas. Alerts also go to campus police and a subscription service that notifies students, faculty, staff and local media about an unfolding security situation via email, phone or text.

Results

  • Powers VWCC’s lockdown notification system 24-7. If an emergency is called in, SARA initiates a series of notifications to enhance campus safety.
  • Notifies select VWCC personnel, including campus police and key administrators, as to the location of the alarm to aid in incident investigation
  • No false alarms have occurred with SARA and neither have any major emergencies requiring a lockdown.
  • Configured and updated via a secure website, and customization enables the VWCC help desk to conduct monthly tests of the lockdown function
  • Integrated with college’s fire alarm system to further enhance campus safety
  • Monitors the emergency generator for VWCC’s main building, which houses the data center, and eventually will monitor all nine of VWCC’s emergency generators
  • Considering expansion to include automatic website updates and postings to TV monitors that serve as electronic bulletin boards throughout campus