University of Pennsylvania enhances safety and security

The University adopted the MIR3 rapid two-way notification and response platform from OnSolve to alert faculty, staff and students, and to convene the Penn Crisis Management Team, in order to help manage any type of crisis.

Protecting the entire university community

Ensuring the safety, security and peace of mind of faculty, staff, students, and their parents is critical to any academic institution. Rapid, mass notification during a crisis is critical to ensuring the safety of a university population highlighted by the tragic shooting deaths of 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007. That tragic event was the first in a series of tragedies that increased awareness of the need to adopt emergency notification solutions in schools nationwide.

The Problem: How to notify a diverse community of thousands all at once

In the early 2000s, the most common method for reaching all stakeholders in a university community was through basic phone trees and blast emails. These methods were laborious and slow, and relied on people either being near their phone, or online and checking email constantly. As smart phones with SMS, voicemail and email became popular, emergency notification technology took advantage of these modalities.

When Penn sought a way to quickly reach all 50,000 members of its campus communit,y as well as parents in other parts of the country, it looked for a solution that would take advantage of all the communication technology available.

The Solution: MIR3 from OnSolve

In July 2007, Penn concluded its selection process, choosing MIR3 because of its ability to satisfy the technological, speed, security, ease of importing, customer support and, company financial strength requirements. The OnSolve team worked closely with DPS and ISC to ready the system in time for fall semester, and the “UPennAlert Emergency Notification System” was successfully launched in 2007. Since then, the system has undergone continuous testing, including an annual campus-wide drill.

Campus-wide drill at Penn sets notification speed record In October 2015, Penn ran its annual campus-wide test of the UPennAlert system. In only 5.5 minutes, 86,000 SMS and email messages were sent to over 50,000 people. The system has delivered similar results in several real life scenarios.

MIR3 helps Penn enhance campus notifications

  • Web services APIs enable Penn ISC to map the features of MIR3 to the UPennAlert custom interface, putting a “Penn” branding on the system
  • Maintain security with ISO 27001 and SSAE 16 through the hosting of data in the geographically dispersed, redundant data centers maintained by OnSolve
  • Launch notifications in three easy steps;on-call initiators can log in from anywhere with an Internet-connected computer and choose to send critical communications immediately
  • Target specific groups of people, organized by geographic zone or recipient type (faculty, staff, student, etc.)
  • Provide recipients with the ability to manage their own contact data through the DataSync self-registration application
  • Establish conference calls instantly to enable rapid decision making and information sharing during any type of crisis

The bottom line

MIR3 from OnSolve plays a critical role in Penn’s Division of Public Safety emergency management program providing its entire community with rapid, reliable, effective mass notification. Said Maureen Rush, VP for public safety and superintendent of Penn Police, “One of the things that we work very hard on is making sure we communicate the value of the system. Parents have our promise that we’re going to do everything possible to keep their sons and daughters safe through our notification system.