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In recent years, Americans have witnessed staggering growth in intensity and frequency of campus violence, including the tragedy at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007. Coupled with countless other emergency situations, such as weather and natural disaster-induced trauma, the need for a notification system to effectively and instantly communicate vital information to campus communities has grown exponentially.  Experts agree that, in order to be effective, a holistic mass notification strategy must be both multi-modal and reliable. A mixed media approach to emergency communication has been proven to garner a higher degree of effective response than a one-dimensional approach, particularly considering the shortfalls of mobile phone communications.

Virginia Tech’s existing emergency response plan included email and SMS/text message modes of communication, but there were critical instant notification “soft spots” in the plan including limited methods to reach students and faculty in captive spaces, such as classrooms and hallways. Officials selected to Inova Solutions’ OnAlert as one component of the VT Alerts system.  VT Alerts includes a multi-modal mix of SMS/text messaging to mobile devices, calls to home, office, or mobile phone numbers, email notification, and LED displays in classrooms.

Inova OnAlert is a visual communication system that displays customized messages on easily readable LED wallboards. The displays normally show time and date information, and draw attention with audible alerts or color changes when an emergency message appears.  OnAlert displays are highly reliable, as demonstrated when these displays were among the few remaining functional communication devices in Washington, D.C. following the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  OnAlert LED displays are powered by the network through Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) technology. This means that consolidated, uninterrupted power supplies keep the displays connected and broadcasting even in the event of a power interruption.

Virginia Tech deployed over 200 Inova OnAlert Emergency LED Displays throughout the campus to ensure critical messages reached all students and faculty, particularly in captive spaces.  In combination with the other tools in the VT Alerts system, Inova Solutions’ OnAlert displays are a key element in providing an effective and instantaneous communication tool for the university community.