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Virginia Community College Adopts SARA for Emergency Notifications

Virginia Western Community College (VWCC) in Roanoke, VA, has deployed Situational Awareness and Response Assistance (SARA) software to send out automatic mass notifications after experiencing three false alarms.

Previously, VWCC used IPsession for paging, and Cisco Systems for telephone alerts, and more than 30 emergency pull stations.

"The college’s network and security administrator had noticed that the Situational Awareness and Response Assistance software from Status Solutions was integrated into IPsession and believed it had the capabilities VWCC required. After some investigation, the decision was made to remove the existing emergency pull stations from the building automation system as soon as possible, creating an integrated, stand-alone pull station and siren system using the SARA alerting engine. While the existing IPsession server could have been utilized, the college’s preference was to set up a separate SARA server to communicate with the IPsession appliance for easier management," said a statement prepared by the university.

When an alarm is pulled, SARA:

  • Sets off a lockdown siren campus-wide;
  • Sends a message through the college phone system and PA systems throughout campus;
  • Notifies campus police; and
  • Launches notifications to students, faculty, staff, and local media by e-mail, phone, or text message.

The college also currently uses SARA to keep track of the generator in the main building. However, it plans to expand the monitoring to nine of the institution's emergency generators.

"Obviously a lockdown notification system is invaluable if just one life is saved," said Doug Parsons, network and security administrator.

Virginia Western Community College has more than 13,000 students.

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About the Author

Tim Sohn is a 10-year veteran of the news business, having served in capacities from reporter to editor-in-chief of a variety of publications including Web sites, daily and weekly newspapers, consumer and trade magazines, and wire services. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @editortim.

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