New system to alert campus

Starting this week, a new voice over alert
system will be put in place to notify students
and staff of an emergency on campus.
All active CISCO IP phones will now be
equipped with Burbee, a computer server
system that will alert individuals by sending
a voice message out over the phone speaker,
University Police Chief Dale Pittman said.
Pittman and Information Technology
Services began working on activating the
system a year and a half ago, following a
large movement to improve general safety
on campus.
“We’re trying to use the existing
infrastructure to be as safe as possible,”
Pittman said.
The Burbee system is not entirely new
to UAA. The Bookstore has been using
the system since 2006, mostly to inform
customers in the bookstore about sales and
also to act as a paging system, IT Chief
Information Offi cer Rich Whitney said.
The total cost to implement the Burbee
system was only $175,000, a low price due to
the already existing infrastructure.
Whitney said he fi rst suggested switching
to IP phones in 2000, knowing they had
voice over capabilities that could be used
to improve campus safety. If a completely
new safety alert system been put in, the
cost could have been millions.
“We’re excited about the solution,”
Whitney said. “We’re always trying to fi nd
ways to piggyback technology.”
No other UA campus has the voice
over IP capabilities that the Anchorage
campus does, Whitney said. Currently
IT is working with UAA’s community
campuses to remove the Public Business
Exchange phones and replace them with IP
phones.
One part of the Anchorage campus,
however, is still without the IP phones:
Housing.
Students living in MAC Apartments,
Templewood and the dorms all have
analog phones that do not have the voice
over technology, Pittman said.
UPD uses School Messenger to alert
students of emergencies or campus
closures. Instead of an immediate voice
over, the systems calls the phones with
a recorded message that the student can
either answer and hear the alert or check
their voice mails.
IP phones are untraditional in that they
are connected to the campus Internet, not
just a separate telephone system.
“It’s a phone and data network
connection,” Whitney said.
Because of the data network the phones
are linked to, the Burbee server is easily
connected.
When Burbee is activated by UPD,
anyone in range of the phones will be
alerted. Pittman said that Burbee can be
activated to specifi c locations, with UPD
able to coordinate if a building, section
of campus or the entire campus should be
notifi ed. Burbee will be used strictly for
emergency alerts.
The Bookstore will still use the voice
over system they currently have, but will
also be connected to UPD. IT will be
performing quarterly tests on the system
to check its effi ciency.
Pittman said he had looked at other
emergency notifi cation systems, but found
that with the current technology in place,
Burbee was one the easiest – and most
effective – forms of immediate emergency
notifi cation.
The next step in making the Burbee
completely campus wide is to install IP
phones in all classrooms.
With the new phones, students and
faculty will not only be alerted in the case
of an emergency, but they will also be
able to notify police directly from inside
the classrooms. All IP phones should be
installed by the end of the spring semester,
Whitney said.
Pittman said that there is also a
possibility of speakers being installed in
lobbies and high traffi c areas that would
be connected to the Burbee alert system.
For right now though, with an estimate
cost of about $500,000 for purchasing and
installing the speakers, it is something that
IT is only considering.