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Emergency Messaging

University Business, Feb 2011

Digital signage is an important link in campus emergency messaging efforts and can be more rapid than text or e-mail. "It doesn't matter what sign is up there, lurking behind every message is the emergency alert system," says Spencer W. Graham, manager of operations for West Virginia University's Information Stations digital signage network. Or at least that's how it should be. "If public safety triggers an alert, the signs change in nine seconds," he explains. Any changes to the system are tested to ensure they don't impact that response time. A redundant system on another campus protects against power outages and sends Graham's team a text message if the system goes down.

All the audio and video feeds at the Colorado State University College of Business pass through a Magenta Research switcher that also controls the digital signage network. The use of HP multitouch displays in the operations room makes it easy for staff to manage content. "Let's say we have a tornado warning outside of Ft. Collins," suggests Jon Schroth, director of information technology. "I can take that signal and immediately send it to every classroom and digital sign. I don't have to edit anything, I just push a button."

Vendors are continuing to make advances in emergency messaging features.

"We tie into fire alarms and security systems, so if a door is propped open, the signs will update," says Doug Bannister, CEO and director of software development for Omnivex Corporation. "If someone pulls a fire alarm, the screens in the vicinity can automatically update with information on evacuation routes."