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Safety is Top Priority for West Chester University

West Chester University
West Chester University

University Sees Sharp Improvement in 911 Response Times

Campus safety is receiving more attention than ever, as evidenced in recent years by federal government requirements that most U.S. colleges report campus crime statistics. The annual ‘Best Colleges’ rankings from US News & World Report now include campus crime as a college selection criteria.

As John Dispaldo, emergency management and electronics security manager at Pennsylvania’s West Chester University (WCU) explains, the issue promises to be even more pressing over time. “College enrollment is growing, so the market is there for higher education to get bigger, not smaller. So, as more people enroll, campus safety becomes increasingly critical.”

Fortunately for WCU, its public safety record is strong. Dispaldo plans to keep it that way. WCU leverages E911 technology from Avaya and Conveyant Systems, Inc. As the University grows, and its environment shifts to a more high-density campus model, security is top-of-mind.

“We have a lot of things going on in a very small area,” explains Dispaldo. “It’s reached the point where we can’t build out, we can only build up.”

“As we keep getting bigger, the sheer density of our campus makes having a system like we have now with Avaya all the more critical,” he comments. “With this in mind, it’s important to plan well in the event of an emergency.”

It is vitally important to have a reliable solution like the Avaya/Conveyant offering in this type of environment. It absolutely cuts down on response time and improves dispatching accuracy. It saves precious moments during emergencies.

Upgrade a Boon to Campus Safety

WCU is a state-owned institution, and the largest of the 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. It offers both graduate and undergraduate programs, and employs 1,800 faculty and staff members. Total enrollment is 16,611, with 12,558 full-time undergraduate students on campus.

When the time came to upgrade the on-campus public safety dispatch center recently, Sentry E911 from Avaya partner Conveyant was deployed. It integrates seamlessly with the University’s Avaya Communication Server 1000.

Before the E911 solution, dispatchers at the campus public safety center didn’t have a defined location identifier, hampering their ability to quickly and accurately respond to emergencies.

The decision to deploy the E911 solution was based on providing quicker turnaround and response times. Today, when a 911 call is placed, all pertinent location information appears immediately on the screen of the dispatcher at the WCU Public Safety Dispatch Center. Often, a dispatcher will make a follow-up call, right after police have been sent, to confirm that the call was received, that an officer was dispatched, and to gain more insight into the emergency situation.

“Now, with the dispatch center having the Conveyant system on their desktops, the dispatcher can actually see what’s going on, including the designation of the call’s location — all of that information is populated,” says John Huk, WCU’s telecommunications manager.

An added benefit: the solution also mitigates the challenges of a converged campus network populated with moveable IP phones.

“In a voice-over-IP environment, where phones can be moved and plugged back in anywhere, you don’t necessarily have an accurate location for a 911 call,” explains Joe Sincavage, WCU’s director of networking and telecommunications. “We have no way to lock down the phones. We put out a lot of messages telling people not to move phones without contacting us first, but that doesn’t always work.”

The Conveyant E911 solution includes a discovery protocol so that if phones are moved to different buildings, they are programmed to automatically update their emergency location identifiers. The WCU IT team has taken it one step further by using designation fields within the Avaya Communications Server 1000 to provide the exact room number when a 911 call comes in.

Dispaldo reports that the experience he has had with Avaya, as well as the ease of use he’s seen with the Conveyant solution, has been very positive. “We’ve never had an issue with support or service,” he says. “It was very easy to train our dispatchers to use it. In fact, it couldn’t be simpler. You just have to read what appears on your screen.”

And the WCU IT team had a good working relationship with Avaya and Conveyant.

“The implementation working with both Avaya and Conveyant was very positive,” says Huk. “The solution works well.”

West Chester University

Faster Response Times, Better Outcomes

The WCU Public Safety Dispatch Center achieved its goals of improving turn around and response times with this E911 solution.

For example, a recent 911 call was received from the Human Performance Lab at the University’s Health Sciences Building. The information appeared at the campus dispatch center at 10:04 am, help was sent between 10:04 and 10:05, and an officer arrived on scene within two to three minutes. Contrast that to dialing 911 and reaching only the county police department, who are highly unlikely to be familiar with exact locations on the campus. Precious time is lost just in explaining the physical location, and then the actual response time will be upwards of15 minutes.

“That’s a perfect example of what a system like this is supposed to do,” recalls Dispaldo. “We’re cutting out the middle man and responding to a crisis call much faster.”

Huk confirms very quick response time to test calls he’s made as well. “I made a couple of test 911 calls and just hung up. An officer was here in less than 5 minutes.”

“The safety of our students, staff, and faculty has been greatly enhanced,” says Dispaldo. “The public safety department has improved its response time to emergencies campus-wide.”

The implementation working with both Avaya and Conveyant was very positive. The solution works well for the money that we spent.

The Next Steps for a Secure Campus

Moving forward, the WCU IT team is looking into mobility solutions. The campus safety staff is eagerly anticipating the roll out.

Huk explains the importance of mobility in an E911 environment. “We’ve removed a lot of desk phones within the residence halls, because all of our students have their own mobile devices. I think a lot of campuses are doing the same. We have 6,000 students living in our residence halls, and being able to determine their exact locations if they dial 911 from a cell phone is a high priority.”

Tim Kenyon, president of Conveyant Systems, can attest to the demand for an E911 mobility solution, “Supporting wireless is of major importance. It’s a trend we’re seeing at university campuses generally. We continue to work hand-in-hand with Avaya to expand on this capability.”

The mobile solution, planned for release in early 2016, will provide better proximity information when a 911 call is placed from a mobile device.

“It is vitally important to have a reliable solution like the Avaya/Conveyant offering in this type of environment,” concludes Dispaldo. “It absolutely cuts down on response time, and improves dispatching accuracy. It saves precious moments during emergencies.”

The safety of our students, staff, and faculty has been greatly enhanced. The public safety department has improved its response time to emergencies campus wide.


  • Keep staff, students and faculty safe in an environment of growing enrollment and increasing campus density

  • Respond to emergency calls quickly and accurately despite converged campus network populated with moveable IP phones

Value Created

  • Much faster emergency response times, resulting in better outcomes

  • Immediate access to location information allowing dispatchers to turn calls around quickly

  • Advanced software capabilities that alert IT staff when a VoIP phone is moved


  • Avaya Communication Server 1000

  • Conveyant Sentry E911 Location Management

About West Chester University

West Chester University of Pennsylvania is the largest of the 14 public institutions in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and the fourth-largest university in the Philadelphia area.

The University offers more than 100 graduate and undergraduate programs in the arts and sciences, business and public affairs, the social sciences, visual and performing arts, health sciences and teacher education.

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