A survey last week of University of South Florida (USF) students showed that nearly half of the students surveyed feel safe on campus, but are thankful for emergency alert systems in place. The school currently uses text and email alerts and recently introduced LCD displays in high traffic areas around campus for visual alerts.
These 40" LCD displays – named eDean(SM) -- display important information, such as: news, weather, academic calendars, performing arts schedules, social calendars, sports schedules, and special event times and locations. In an emergency, eDean can display information and provide critical direction.
“eDean will let students know about upcoming events and maybe emergency issues,” said Alecia, a freshman. “It will make all of the students more aware.”
Last month, the president signed into law a bill that supports measures to improve safety at institutions of higher learning, including that of communication systems. eDean, or Electronic Dispatch for Emergency and Academic Notices, is a visual communication tool providing school information and alerts 24/7 in such areas as the library, bookstore, academic and dining areas. School officials manage and update school information and alerts through a web portal.
Although the law, HR 4137, establishes federal grants to cover 50 percent of costs for colleges related to implementing emergency systems to notify the campus community of a significant emergency or dangerous situation through cellular, text message, or other advanced communication, and to develop procedures for the community to follow in case of an emergency or dangerous situation (Sec. 802), eDean is provided at no cost. Business sponsors, who receive message space on the displays in return, support the system.
eDean was used this past summer when a man with a rifle on USF's main campus caused the University to activate an emergency message on the system. Ashley, a sophomore, said she learned of the emergency before she received the text. For 30 minutes, students and faculty were alerted on the new LCD display that there was the possibility of danger and to avoid the area outside Cooper Hall and surrounding buildings. The emergency was cancelled when it was determined that the "man carrying a rifle" was an ROTC student carrying a practice rifle. The system carrying the alert was immediately updated to let students know that no danger existed.
“USF has needed an emergency notification system for years. It’s good for our safety,” said Stephanie, a 5th year student at the campus.
“I wish eDean had come to USF earlier!” said Crystal, a senior. “It makes knowing campus information so much easier.”
A Tampa company, Electronic Digital Media (EDMsign.com), launched the service this summer. Other schools are in the process of installing displays, including Manatee Community College, Saint Leo University, Florida Tech and the University of Houston. Current sponsors at USF include OAI, WingStop, Dillard's, Washington Mutual, USF Federal Credit Union, USF Bookstore, ACF, and philanthropist, Mrs. Jean Emplit. In addition, companies can support a local charity by running messages for the charity on the system in exchange for their sponsorship dollars. Current charities on eDean include The Children's Home and the First Tee of Tampa Bay.
eDean (eDean.tv) is a visual communication tool designed to support educational institutions in their quest to provide students, faculty, staff, and campus visitors with valuable information such as campus news and events, weather, emergency alerts and more. With the support of sponsors, eDean is a cost-effective solution for educational institutions to integrate their student communications and reduce paper waste. With the existence of eDean (an on-campus notice system), sponsors finally have an avenue to convey their brand or message to a high density, targeted demographic otherwise reachable only by school newspapers. School officials have access to update messages and trigger alerts within seconds via a secure web portal. Created by Electronic Digital Media, a Florida-based company, eDean is currently in use at University of South Florida, University of Tampa and Saint Leo University. For more information on eDean, call (813) 888-8796 or visit their website.
Electronic Digital Media gave the system to the University for free.