KSU police department to test emergency notification system Wednesday


Phones throughout Kent State’s campus will be enabled to display text alerts on their screens during campus emergencies. Phones with this capability will be labeled with a red sticker that says “MNS,” which stands for Mass Notification System.

Emily Mills

The Kent State Police Department will test the University Mass Notification System between 6 and 6:30 p.m. Wednesday night.

Jeff Futo, Kent State police officer and emergency and safety specialist, said the test will take place through speakers in buildings on Kent State’s campus.

“We will activate the system several times in the buildings as we work through the different prerecorded messages,” he said.

The police department is working on broadcasting the test over the tornado siren speakers as well, but it is unclear if that will happen.

The test, which should only last between five and 10 minutes, will include setting off prerecorded messages about a lockdown or other active threat, a tornado warning and an all-clear message.

Messages throughout the test will announce all of the messages are only drills, not actual emergencies.

Futo said officers also have the capability to broadcast live audio over the system if one of the prerecorded messages does not include the information they need to convey or if officers need to convey specific information to individuals or groups.

In addition, the department will be testing a new feature that will display emergency messages on select Cisco IP phones (the type of office phone used at Kent State) that are created by the Communications Center at the police department stating the nature of the alert. The phone will also play an audio emergency message in addition to the phone text alert. Phones with this capability will have a red sticker that says “MNS,” which stands for Mass Notification System.

The text system will also better assist those who are deaf or hearing impaired during an emergency.

Phones that will display the text alert messages are in offices that are not close to building speakers, Futo said. This ensures those who are not near building speakers will still be able to receive emergency messages.

The number of phones with this capability is limited due to licensing factors.

Futo said it cost about $1,000 per building for buildings that already had the speaker system in place to upgrade to the new system. Kent State departments including the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Information Services absorbed the cost.

Previously, the University Mass Notification System consisted of a prerecorded audio message that could be broadcast through building speakers, fire alarm speakers and select Cisco phones. Some of these phones already had the written message feature enabled on them.

Now, dispatchers will be able to activate the emergency alert system by pressing a button that will start the mass notification system.

“We are using different technology,” Futo said. “The old system used radio waves. The new system uses the university network. Thus it has shown to be more reliable, has more functionality and has clearer messages.”

Futo said the new one-touch button system frees dispatchers up to focus on a number of other factors during an emergency.

“Dispatchers only need to touch a single button to activate a prerecorded message,” he said. “When an emergency occurs, the activation method needs to be as simple as possible because the dispatchers are in the processes of doing 10 different things at once. We would like the initial message to go out as quickly as possible.”

The Wednesday night test is taking place to ensure the one-touch dispatcher buttons work. Futo said it is unclear how often tests of the system will be conducted in the future.

Contact Emily Mills at [email protected].