Anderson University increases campus safety with better emergency communications

Published on 13-Jan-2010

Validated on 28 Oct 2013

"“This multifaceted notification system serves our campus well, delivering emergency and critical information to faculty, staff and students with flexibility, reliability and speed.”" - Sena K. Landey, Vice President for Finance and Treasurer, Anderson University

Customer:
Anderson University

Industry:
Education

Deployment country:
United States

Solution:
Service Management, Smarter Planet

Smarter Planet:
Smarter Education

IBM Business Partner:
Amatra Technologies

Overview

In recent years, tragic events have made campus safety an ever-increasing priority for schools, colleges and universities across the country. Many educational institutes, including Anderson University in Anderson, Indiana, are turning to information technology for powerful and effective emergency management systems to help reduce risk and to help effectively respond to an act of violence or to natural disasters, such as flood or fire.

Business need:
Provide the campus community with an advanced message broadcast and alert notification system built on a reliable, scalable and secure platform for rapid multimodal emergency communications

Solution:
Built on IBM WebSphere, IBM DB2 and IBM Tivoli Directory Integrator software, the E-Connect solution from IBM Business Partner Amatra Technologies provides rapid, reliable mass communications in emergency situations

Benefits:
Rapidly and easily transmit messages via e-mail, SMS, IM and voice notification via text-to-voice translation for any phone number in the US; Minimized implementation time and reduced maintenance costs over time; Around-the-clock access to contacts and communication; A reliable and high-performance IBM Smart SOA Application Foundation powered by WebSphere Application Server Network Deployment offers exceptional scalability and options for growth to increase ROI over time

Case Study

Overview

The Need
Provide the campus community with an advanced message broadcast and alert notification system built on a reliable, scalable and secure platform for rapid multimodal emergency communications

The Solution
Built on IBM WebSphere, IBM DB2 and IBM Tivoli Directory Integrator software, the E-Connect solution from IBM Business Partner Amatra Technologies provides rapid, reliable mass communications in emergency situations

What Makes it Smarter
E-Connect emergency notification system enables automated aggregation of critical information from disparate sources, and fast electronic dissemination of a high volume of messages to reach all affected parties very quickly

The Result
“This multifaceted notification system serves our campus well, delivering emergency and critical information to faculty, staff and students with flexibility, reliability and speed.”
— Sena K. Landey, Vice President for Finance and Treasurer, Anderson University

In recent years, tragic events have made campus safety an ever-increasing priority for schools, colleges and universities across the country. Many educational institutes, including Anderson University in Anderson, Indiana, are turning to information technology for powerful and effective emergency management systems to help reduce risk and to help effectively respond to an act of violence or to natural disasters, such as flood or fire.

Anderson University is a private Christian liberal arts college that has been welcoming students to its campus since 1917. It currently offers more than 60 undergraduate majors and 5 graduate programs, and serves as home to approximately 2,800 students from the United States and abroad. In 2009, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the sixth consecutive year.

“A key facet of risk and emergency management on school campuses is communication,” says Chris Williams, director of university communications at Anderson. “The tragic event at Virginia Tech prompted our emergency management committee to evaluate emergency message broadcast systems that allow school administrators to quickly contact students, faculty and staff in the event of an emergency.”

Stability critical for emergency communications solution

Initially, Anderson contracted with a private company that offered a free, SMS-based messaging service. However, the system required cumbersome updating and management and was limited only to SMS messaging. Anderson University needed a fully integrated, scalable system that could instantly transmit a large number of messages via various communication channels to first responders and everyone in the school’s database, and also provide a tracking mechanism.

“Once we had the interim solution in place, we began looking for a more sophisticated, scalable, prepackaged and easy-to-customize emergency communication system,” Williams explains. “Of all the systems we evaluated, Amatra stood out as the most capable, and as a member of the emergency management committee, the fact that IBM was the backbone of the solution was very important to us. Having a stable environment for the long haul is critical.”

Anderson University worked with Amatra to implement the E-Connect solution, an innovative state-of-the-art message broadcast and notification system. Built using an IBM® DB2® Express-C 9 server, IBM WebSphere® Application Server Network Deployment software and IBM WebSphere Portal Server software, the E-Connect solution utilizes IBM Tivoli® Directory Integrator software for data upload and synchronization, automating processes for controlling access. It also provides a single management console monitor and reports on compliance posture. The solution supports both the Microsoft® Windows® and Linux® operating systems and runs on virtualized IBM System x® servers.

Based on a Service-oriented Architecture (SOA) that enables the reuse of Web services, E-Connect offers Anderson University an easy-to-customize channel for reliable and consistent mass communication in both emergency and nonemergency situations. Vital information is communicated reliably and in real time, and university administrators have around-the-clock, user-friendly, Web-based, consolidated access to contacts and communication. The role-based security model helps to ensure that only authorized users can access and administer the system, and safeguards against spam notifications.

“Secure and tight integration with our database and its broad distribution of messaging was vital for an efficient response to emergency situations,” Williams says. “Plus, the flexibility of the E-Connect system was appealing because when we’re ready to take the service in other directions, we know those options are available and the system is scalable.”

IBM Tivoli reduces resource requirements for database optimization

IBM Tivoli Directory Integrator helps extract and synchronize data within the host and the E-Connect IBM DB2 Express database. Since Tivoli Directory Integrator has many built-in adaptors, the system does not require custom coding to extract data from different sources. As a result, the IBM DB2 database is optimized for speed and scalability—and in the event of an emergency, it can help send thousands of messages in a very short period of time.

Since the university’s mascot is a raven, the E-Connect system is known on campus as the Raven Alert System. The Raven Alert System supports transmitting hundreds or thousands of messages in a consistent manner via e-mail, SMS and voice notification with text-to-voice translation for any phone number in the world.

Other key features include message management, which allows the university to create, send and track messages; profile management, for managing user profiles and updating personal information; and group management, which allows the university to create, update and delete custom groups for message management.

“The emergency broadcast system not only has to be reliable, but it also has to be very low maintenance,” Williams adds. “As students register and new employees come online, they indicate that they want to receive these messages and their contact information is automatically reflected in the Raven Alert System. This capability has saved us endless man hours in resources that we would otherwise spend constantly uploading and purging a list of individuals who have signed up for the service.”

Mass communications in multiple modes help ensure rapid alert transmission

Since the Raven Alert System is not limited to text or SMS messaging, members in the campus community can receive messages in several ways to ensure receipt. “I signed up and gave the system my cell phone, my e-mail and my home phone,” Williams says. “Messages will go to those three places for me. This flexibility is valuable because we can’t guarantee that everybody can receive text messaging on their phone at all times.”

The system has already proved to be effective during a recent power outage and a few snow days. “We used the Raven Alert System to communicate the power outage, redirect classes and communicate cancelled or delayed classes,” Williams says. “We have a range of prepackaged messages sitting in our portal, and a few groups created. In the event of an inclement weather occurrence, we already have a message created so all I have to do is select that message and the group I want to send it to. That saves valuable time, because when you're dealing with an emergency situation there’s potential for errors if creating a message in the heat of the moment. All I have to do is check two boxes and send the message. It relieves a lot of stress and pressure.”

Platform for growth

The Amatra E-Connect system also includes analytical capabilities so that Anderson staff can verify that messages are transmitted successfully. Williams adds: “After the event, we can evaluate the type of message we constructed, if it went out in a timely manner and how widely it was distributed. We can also see which calls didn’t get through so we can flag a user and let them know their contact information didn’t work.”

Anderson University is considering another product, Social Connect, within the IBM WebSphere Portal environment. This will help the university manage social media in a secure, auditable and easy manner. “We have to be very strategic about how we expend our resources and approach information technology from a stewardship perspective,” Williams says. “A highly effective emergency management system is very important. It’s important for us as an institution, it’s important for families and it’s important for students. Amatra and IBM have put the tools in place to help us communicate quickly with our campus and community, and to minimize as much as possible the impact of potentially disastrous events.”

Business Benefits
● E-Connect on an IBM platform allows Anderson to rapidly and easily transmit messages via e-mail, short message service (SMS), instant messaging (IM) and voice notification via text-to-voice translation for any phone number in the United States
● Seamless integration with the existing student and staff database minimizes implementation time and reduces maintenance costs over time
● Role-based security helps ensure university administrators have around-the-clock access to contacts and communication
● Optimized IBM DB2 Express performance helps ensure the system can send thousands of messages in a very short period of time
● A reliable and high-performance IBM Smart SOA™ Application Foundation powered by WebSphere Application Server Network Deployment offers exceptional scalability and options for growth to increase ROI over time

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Hardware:
System x

Software:
WebSphere Portal Server, Tivoli Directory Integrator, DB2 Express-C, WebSphere Application Server

Legal Information

For more information For more information about IBM WebSphere Portal, please contact your IBM sales representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit ibm.com/software/genservers/portal For more information on Anderson University, visit www.anderson.edu For more information on Amatra Technologies, visit www.amatra.com © Copyright IBM Corporation 2010 IBM Software Group Route 100 Somers, NY 10589 Produced in the United States of America January 2010 All Rights Reserved IBM, the IBM logo and ibm.com are trademarks or registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both. If these and other IBM trademarked terms are marked on their first occurrence in this information with a trademark symbol (® or ™), these symbols indicate U.S. registered or common law trademarks owned by IBM at the time this information was published. Such trademarks may also be registered or common law trademarks in other countries. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the Web at “Copyright and trademark information” at ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds in the United States, other countries or both. Microsoft and Windows are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States, other countries or both. Other product, company or service names may be trademarks or service marks of others. All statements regarding IBM future direction or intent are subject to change or withdrawal without notice and represent goals and objectives only. ALL INFORMATION IS PROVIDED ON AN “AS-IS” BASIS, WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY OF ANY KIND. IBM shall not be responsible for any damages arising out of the use of, or otherwise related to, this documentation or any other documentation. Nothing contained in this documentation is intended to, nor shall have the effect of, creating any warranties or representations from IBM (or its suppliers or licensors), or altering the terms and conditions of the applicable license agreement governing the use of IBM software. References in this publication to IBM products or services do not imply that IBM intends to make them available in all countries in which IBM operates. All customer examples described are presented as illustrations of how those customers have used IBM products and the results they may have achieved. Actual environmental costs and performance characteristics may vary by customer.