Unified Crisis Response: Across the School, Across the District
Faced with the need for a unified, advanced crisis response solution across 30 existing and newly built schools, the large Parkway School District in St. Louis found the vendor selection relatively straightforward.
Parkway was strategically modernizing all of their systems, and Rauland’s Telecenter U was an important platform that updated critical communications and emergency response on a district-wide basis, according to Mike Mertens, Director of Facilities at Parkway.
“We like the scheduling and PA solutions Telecenter U offered, but being able to reuse our existing infrastructure is what drove our decision,” said Mertens. “At the same time, Telecenter U delivered a one-touch centralized emergency response solutions for us.”
The District knew they needed to replace existing and aging paging/intercom systems and wanted a clean sweep replacement that would integrate well with other planned upgrades.
The hybrid Telecenter U solution allowed Parkway to replace all of its old, cumbersome intercom head-ends, while reusing 100 percent of the speakers and call switches, and 100 percent of the cabling, noted James Swingle, Manager of Parkway’s Planning and Construction Services. The result delivered modernized capabilities for both emergency and daily use at enormous savings to the District – almost $1 million.
“The Telecenter U technology allowed us to conserve considerable capital compared to other alternatives, and no other system provided that comprehensive strategic communications district-wide,” said Swingle. “Telecenter U’s IP-based capabilities also got our schools out in front of regulations that are expected down the road.”
“Previously running on older analog systems, we’re now putting things over the network, with upgraded security systems that go between buildings easily,” he added.
He said the new Telecenter U emergency response/scheduling/PA technology, for example, was phased in with the door lock, camera, and fire systems for centralized security.
Swingle explained that newer buildings in the District now have full IP capabilities. Existing schools are being transitioned to full IP, he said.
"We liked the scheduling and PA solutions Telecenter U offered, but being able to reuse our existing infrastructure is what drove our decision."
Mike Mertens, Director of Facilities, Parkway School District
The Telecenter U solution selected at Parkway School District manages Communications, Events/Scheduling, and Threat Management Automation school-by-school and across the district.
Elements of the solution used at Parkway School District include:
– Administrative Console
– Web-based User Interface
– Hybrid Wiring with 24-Port Gateways
– Microphone Input Module
– Zone Page Modules
– SIP Integration
– Call Switches
1-Touch Emergency Response
Any school office, Swinge explained, can now press the appropriate button on their Telecenter U Console to execute pre-programmed emergency communications (e.g. Lockdown, Weather, Evacuate), and Telecenter U will:
– Play standard, pre-recorded emergency announcement over PA
– Email/text security office, officers, and other key personnel
– Place a phone call to Parkway Security Center and play a pre-recorded message informing of facility and emergency
Telecenter U also delivers District-wide communications, he continued, to any classroom from any school or district office. The technology also allows communications from any classroom to the school office with normal and emergency escalations to other consoles, phones and even the Security Center.
With the older system, Swingle said, updating scheduling and events at the schools was a time-consuming process. “Electricians had to physically visit each and every school, one at a time, to change the bell schedules. Now, we can handle all of that centrally, with just a point and click over the web, for every school,” Swingle explained. “School offices can even handle it themselves.”
“Telecenter U’s calendar-style scheduling is very easy and intuitive to use,” Mertens added. “The web-based, ‘point-click-drag’ style calendar administration for bells and scheduled events was immediately understood and used by our school office personnel.”
“Using the entire communications system is just as easy,” Mertens added. “Training has been very straight-forward for anyone who uses a computer. The only difficulty office personnel had was in replacing behavior that had been in place for 20 years!”
Looking ahead, Mertens said the District will be further enhancing its capabilities, including Telecenter lockdown using the classroom confirmation capability so the Parkway Security Center can quickly identify problem locations. Call buttons for that already exist in most or all classrooms, he said.
Additional emergency triggers, Swingle said, can be added for emergency procedure initiation from many sources, including:
– Emergency buttons (e.g. in school offices for personnel not near console)
– Phone buttons (i.e. on office or classroom phones to initiate emergency procedures)
– Smartphone App