Campus Technology Focus

Three Keys to an Effective Emergency Communications Plan


The higher education environment isn’t as idyllic as it used to be. In the face of security incidents, pandemic outbreaks and natural disasters, higher education institutions are faced with increasing pressure to secure their campuses quickly and effectively. What’s more, new federal mandates require campuses to implement enhanced e911 capabilities.

Many institutions have rolled out standardized lockdown procedures, but schools with expansive campuses, transient populations and student bodies of adult citizens need more advanced emergency plans to deal with these challenges as they arise.

This makes advanced emergency communications plans a fundamental part of campus security.

Experience has taught that the best way to tackle emergency communications is to wrap it into an overarching unified communications system that supports lockdown procedures, provides emergency notifications and integrates with building controls.

This approach supports surveillance, delivers alarms and alerts and enhances the awareness and responsiveness of campus security personnel. It also allows schools to leverage existing infrastructure investments for voice and data, while adding video and mobility components as time (and resources) permits.

All told, this strategy results in a three-pronged approach to campus safety: awareness, response coordination and campus notification. There’s no better way to keep a campus secure.

The importance of awareness

Before decision makers can notify the campus community, they must become aware of the event.

One way to do this is to utilize existing IP technology, integrating cameras, door and window sensors, video surveillance, smoke detectors and building control systems into an overarching security landscape to keep tabs on what happens where.

Another way to do it is to keep tabs on all 911 calls—a process known as “911 Call Snooping.” Implementing this strategy allows campus security personnel to be aware of all 911 calls placed from the campus phone system. When the call is originated, on-campus staff members can silently conference in on the call to know the details of the incident and stay informed.

Not many vendors offer this type of capability, but Alcatel-Lucent is one.

Finally, schools should adopt solutions that can push the exact location of each 911 call to first responders. This kind of additional information heightens awareness of emergencies from the get-go, and could save precious minutes in an emergency.

Coordinating response

Once campus officials are aware of an incident, another key piece of the communications puzzle is allowing security personnel and administrators to communicate each other and with first responders including local police, campus police, fire and rescue, and emergency medical technicians.

The primary mode of communication for first responders is via land mobile radio (LMR).

Recent breakthroughs in voice technology allow traditional LMRs to interoperate. Several radios on different frequencies and different system types can now communicate with one another through unified communications, thus providing the first step towards interoperability.

In particular, the Alcatel-Lucent OmniTouch My Teamwork Land Mobile Radio Conferencing and Collaboration (LMRCC) solution combines all the LMR interoperability features with a robust software platform that allows full audio conferencing of any telephone device into the LMR radio band. The solution also allows for the integration of data collaboration in the context of an LMR conference.

What does this mean for campuses? In the event of an emergency, the communications network can bridge administrators at home or in remote offices, on-site security and staff, first responders, or disaster recovery teams with audio, video and data conferencing.

With the ability to share more information in a shorter amount of time over a secured connection, institutions can help ensure better decision making with input from all appropriate personnel.

Notifying campus across vectors

With the campus leadership fully aware of the event and its scope, the school is now ready to craft and deliver mass notifications. The very best emergency communications solutions enable flexible, multi-vector communication to a variety of media:

  • Voicemail
  • Mobile phones through SMS (opt-in or otherwise)
  • E-mail
  • Digital signage
  • Instant Message
  • Analog, digital or IP television
  • Hotlines using interactive voice response tools

It’s also possible to turn IP telephones into loud speakers by dynamically activating the speaker phone function.

Alcatel-Lucent is a vendor that offers technology which provides this feature on-demand; the capability is part of a complete solution that works with third-party applications and can be deployed either end-to-end or piece-by-piece, depending on the needs of each individual campus.


Emergency communications is about much more than just notification. By leveraging existing unified communications technology along with new methods to promote awareness, coordinate response and notify constituents quickly, colleges and universities can keep their campuses safer and work to promote an environment where the focus is on learning and the student experience.

To learn more visit:

Alcatel-Lucent Technologies
3400 W. Plano Parkway
Plano, Texas 75075