Public safety officials at universities and colleges face many of the same challenges that municipal police and fire departments do. For instance, consider the daunting task faced by university public safety personnel during each home football game at Clemson University in South Carolina.
The small town of Clemson’s population of under 20,000 residents swells on game days as tens of thousands of people pack into the 81,000 capacity Memorial Stadium. The stadium has earned the moniker “Death Valley” both because it’s such a challenging place for visiting teams to play and because scorching temperatures and high humidity often result in hundreds of fans requiring treatment for heat exhaustion, including dozens who need to be sent to the hospital. Over consumption of alcohol and squabbles between opposing fans also demand the close attention of public safety personnel.
This is not a job that can be handled by university public safety officials alone. Ensuring that so many fans and players stay safe requires Clemson to bring in state law enforcement as well as municipal and county police, fire, and EMS staff. But fully taking advantage of these additional resources is only possible when different public safety officials can communicate seamlessly.
Speaking the same language
Unfortunately, a mishmash of communications systems – including many legacy systems that lack modern functionality and flexibility – often can’t deliver the interoperability public safety agencies need to communicate easily and quickly. This was a challenge for Clemson before it deployed the Avtec Scout™ dispatch console. A configurable, reliable, and scalable dispatch console is the foundation of the kind of efficient communications system that universities need to ensure safety during special events and emergencies as well as day-to-day operations.
“Sometimes universities will be working with different municipal and county public safety agencies that have different radio systems,” said Mandy Martin Griffin, sales manager for Avtec, the maker of Avtec Scout™. “With our console, we don’t care. So, when we are doing the dispatching, it can be any radio, it can be any phone line, it can be from any manufacturer. That’s very powerful when you have different agencies that need to work together fast.”
Avtec Scout™ provides other important advantages to higher education institutions, who must navigate high-stakes safety events, such as active shooter threats and on-campus protests and manage to do so with limited budgets. For example, one common hesitation higher education institutions may have to investing in a modernized advanced Internet protocol (IP) console able to consolidate radio, telephony, and broadband/LTE into a single communications solution is the training required for dispatchers to use it effectively and the worry that transitioning to a new console will slow their response time.
With Avtec Scout™ that is not a problem. “We can completely customize the screen and the user interface (UI) to be anything a customer wants. So, a lot of time people will buy our product and replace their old legacy consoles and then make the screen look exactly like the old legacy console,” Griffin said. “That way, there’s no transition, there’s no training time. The capability is much higher grade, and the features are different on the backend. Then you can slowly migrate new technology into the console as the dispatcher feels more comfortable.”
A resilient solution
Efficient and interoperable communication is of little use to universities if the school’s command center is rendered inoperable by a strong storm – an increasing likelihood as extreme weather events become more frequent. With Avtec Scout™ the work of dispatchers can take place anywhere – on a laptop in car, at home, in a hotel – because the license is transportable. System resiliency is also supported by the availability of multiple servers; if one is damaged by a storm, the system immediately switches to a backup.
At Clemson, the implementation of Avtec Scout™ transformed the gameday work of public safety officials, allowing university, local, county, and state agencies to communicate seamlessly across a variety of UHF, MHz, and VHF bands. The school has since expanded the use of the console to basketball games and non-sporting events like graduations, concerts, and visits from dignitaries. When it comes to ensuring public safety, then, access to an advanced and interoperable console means that Clemson wins every home game.