Sheridan Institute Deploys Emergency Notification System Based on Cisco UAE

Sheridan Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning deployed an automated security and safety notification system based on Cisco Unified Communications technology.

The system—known as Sheridan Incident Response and Emergency Notification or SIREN)—is the first of its kind in North America and serves the college’s 15,000 full-time students and faculty members on three campuses. 

According to Sumon Acharjee, director of IT at Sheridan, the college—which has a longstanding relationship with Cisco—had an emergency preparedness team in place for several years and the message of that team focused on improving communications.

 “We were approached by that committee to look at some technology or capability to further enhance these communications at the college,” Acharjee says, noting that the college went with SIREN to utilize a wide variety of communications tools including telephones, PA systems, digital signage, computers, and more.

“SIREN allows our senior management and our emergency response team to focus on the situation rather than focusing on trying to coordinate the communication of all those capabilities,” he adds.

In the event of emergency, SIREN enables Sheridan to quickly assess the situation, make vital decisions, and notify the college community. By leveraging Sheridan's network infrastructure, Cisco’s Unified Application Environment (UAE), and custom applications and integration from UNIS LUMIN, Sheridan is able to share information in a number of ways.

When the system is activated, students, faculty, staff, and visitors will be alerted immediately via:

  • text-to-speech messages sent to the phones located in offices, classrooms, and throughout the campuses;
  • digital signage located across all campuses and enables emergency teams to broadcast audio or text updates;
  • paging systems that broadcast information and updates throughout all campuses or in select zones;
  • text messages sent to cell phones and email accounts: and
  • the Sheridan website on which messages are instantly posted.

Acharjee says the system—which is being deployment this summer—allows the college to send text messages to phones indicating the closure of a parking lot or contact students and staff via all available means of communication in the case of a weather emergency.

“The focus on this project was to solve a business problem by integrating every technology that’s out there—whether it be on a student or provided by Sheridan—and being interoperable with everything, in a very secure way,” says Jeff Seifert, CTO of Cisco Canada. “[That’s] key to having most effective communications around an incident, whether it be a safety [event] a weather event.”

According to Seifert, SIREN is different from similar systems due to its focus on multiple technologies and methods of communication.

“A lot schools, post-secondary institutions do have emergency procedures,” he says. “But the concept of pulling all available technologies together through a single coordination point that has high availability is something that’s unique…It’s really using every technology at your disposal to communicate effectively because really seconds matter.”

Acharjee agrees, noting that the system allows Sheridan to immediately “put some intelligence” on its network.

“But this is probably one of first implementation in an emergency response perspective to bring all these devices and capabilities together using one engine to drive that,” he says.

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