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Midwest College Deploys Low-Cost RTLS for Emergencies

The RF Technologies security system consists of pendants affixed to desks and podiums so that instructors can discreetly send a Wi-Fi-based alert to campus police.
By Claire Swedberg

Providing each faculty member with his or her own pendant was unrealistic, the CIO explains, because there are a large number of employees, many of whom work part-time or teach only for a few semesters. Instead, the school began working with RF Technologies on a system that would assign a pendant to a classroom, rather than to an instructor. The college acquired about 350 pendants and installed them discreetly in classrooms where they could be easily accessed by instructors. Although the devices aren't visible to the rest of the class, faculty members were trained to quickly locate them during an emergency. Most are mounted under a podium or an instructor's desk.

If an urgent situation develops—such as a potential fight between students or a health emergency—a staff member simply reaches for the pendant and briefly pushes the button. The pendant then transmits its unique identifier, which the area Wi-Fi nodes capture and forward to a school server where RFT's HelpAlert software is running. The software captures the transmission, determines the classroom in which it originated and displays an alert on the monitors where the software is running in the campus police's dispatch room. Police dispatchers can view the classroom in which the emergency is taking place, and thus send a nearby officer to that location.

Upon arriving at the scene, the officer determines the nature of the emergency and then, once the issue has been resolved, presses the pendant again to indicate that the problem has been addressed. The officer then calls in details about the emergency to the dispatch center. Dispatchers access the software and input the officer's ID number and other details regarding the call into the HelpAlert software, thereby creating a permanent archive of that event.

If the emergency is of an extreme nature, such as a student with a weapon threatening others, the instructor presses the button and holds it for a longer period of time. He or she can also press it multiple times to indicate to the police that the call is extremely urgent.

The system was taken live this fall at the beginning of the academic year, according to the school's CIO, who says he hasn't heard from police regarding how often it has since been used. Regardless, he adds, the value is in the peace of mind it offers instructors.

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