Mass notification system with massive updates

Katie Chilson

When an emergency happens on campus notifications are sent out as soon as possible. Last year on April 2, the tones signaling an emergency message were ringing throughout buildings everywhere on Kent State University’s campus.

Megan Hermensky was one of the many students who heard the messages being broadcasted. She ran out of her room in Eastway and into the hall to hear the message.

“I was in my room when all of a sudden I heard something being broadcasted throughout my dorm,” said Hermensky, sophomore public relations major. “I went to listen, and when I heard there was a gunman on campus, I freaked out. The message was being broadcasted throughout my whole building that we were on lockdown.”

Almost a year later those tones still signal an emergency on campus, but the notification system is immensely different.  

During the winter break Kent State University made major changes to the mass notification system on campus. The Kent campus police, the University Architects and Information Services all worked together to update the system.

“The updates have vastly improved our ability to send out mass notification messages,” Assistant Chief of Police, Bill Buckbee said.

The notification system uses a variety of mediums to get messages out. FlashAlert texts and emails have been a part of the system, but with the new update the system can now tie into and override TV stations, putting a notification banner on the screen.

Along with these notifications, dispatchers send out a voice message, which are now prerecorded, to buildings across campus. These messages can be announced through PA and fire systems.

“The old system made things very chaotic, dispatchers had to put out a message to campus while handling all the calls and sending out notifications,” Buckbee said. “The new system makes it easier, because they can send out the prerecorded message.”

Located in the Stockdale Safety building, there are phones that have red stickers that say MNS on them. These phones can contact any part or all of campus just by dialing the right numbers. When dialed, dispatchers can put out whatever voice message is needed.

The old system also picked up background noise and static, making the message harder to hear. Now the system runs through phone system instead of radio frequencies.


Working alongside Kent campus police was University Architects and Information Services. Gerald Eveleth, assistant director for Engineering, said they did alterations with the notification system back in 2008 when it was first installed.

“We installed the original system several years ago and we went through and surveyed each building and determined how many speakers we were going to add and how we were going to interface with the speakers in each of the buildings,” Eveleth said.

Ideas of updating the system started in the summer, and by the end of September the project was ready to start. The updates were completed ahead of schedule, and everything was installed right before Winter Break. The whole project, from conception to completion, took about six months.

Jeff Futo, emergency and safety specialist, said not many schools have a notification system that compares to Kent State’s. Buckbee and Futo both said Kent has one of the best notification systems in the country.

Although the system has just been improved, there are already more plans to make it better. Buckbee said the objective is to have one button that sends out all of the notifications. With this button, all texts, emails, TV banners and voice messages will be sent out. This will make it so that people are notified almost immediately when something is happening on campus.

“For us, I guess our goal is nothing less than perfection,” Buckbee said. 

Contact Katie Chilson at [email protected].