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Case Study: Top-Ranked Australian University Keeps Students and Staff Safe with AtHoc

Macquarie University, a top-ranked university, 52-years of age, hosts 40,000 students and about 3,000 staff members on its 126-hectare campus in Sydney. The institution neighbors a shopping precinct, business park, motorway, and train station, which create a security concern for its students and staff members.

The university needed to adopt a mass incidence notification strategy to be compliant with health and safety standards due to its large number of students and staff, whose security the institution had to guarantee. The Emergency Management Team needed to create a real-time mass notification channel through mobile devices and laptops to send alerts on potential security incidences.

Addressing the issue of security, the campus security manager, John Durbridge, said that Macquarie University takes safety very seriously, mainly because security is one of the top three reasons students come to Australian universities. A world-class institution requires world-class technology in the face of crisis.

For practical, real-time communication, Macquarie University has implemented AtHoc Networked Crisis Communications Suite that sends security alerts to members both on campus and off-site. Mass warnings are sent out to avoid accessing the university in case of potential threats.

Macquarie University chose AtHoc security for its crisis-ready mass notification system because of its security credentials with the U.S. Defence Force. Although they approached several overseas and local companies, they were most impressed with AtHoc because it gave them everything they wanted on their 'wish list.' AtHoc's solution was the obvious choice.

 The AtHoc security solution won a technical award for excellence from the Australian Security Industry and provided Durbridge the assurance he needs. 

A Multi-Platform Campus

Macquarie integrated applications operate on AtHoc's cloud platform, a secure Internet of Things (IoT). It is an end-to-end solution using a hybrid cloud, IP network, and mobility to send mass alert communication either on email or through text messages. The integrated system incorporates AlertCollectAccount, and Connect, all on AtHoc's securing network.

By actively synching to the university's directory, the system has access to the list of students and faculty members' live database, which makes it possible to send one targeted alert message to everyone whose data is in the university's database.

With the risk of exposure to personal details, the system was designed to be secure and impossible to breach. The technology is built on the cornerstones of data security and privacy. Despite the interlinking networks and database, there is no risk to the leaking of personal information. Besides sending the security alerts, the sophisticated technology allows the security response team to know if the message has been delivered and read.

Durbridge admitted that when researching an appropriate solution for a communication system, anything that required additional technology platforms was out of the question because it wouldn't give the response rate they wanted. They needed a solution that was multi-platform and integrated with devices already used at the university.

Ease of Use and Implementation

The Macquarie University security team was keen on implementing a system that was easy to use and quick to integrate. The system was incorporated and tested in less than six months.  A fast implementation was essential for them because a crisis could occur at any time.

Once the system was successfully installed, it was immediately deployed without the need for training. The system was incredibly easy to use for staff and students, who were all impressed with the self-service portal, the real-time alert system, and the ability to see the location of those that had received the messages.  The university tests the system twice a day to ensure readiness for various emergency responses.

World-Class Support and Scalability

The university has managed to keep its staff and students safe. Durbridge attributes the success of the system to its scalability, multi-platform, ease of use and continuous management.  The security team enjoys the real-time feedback of the system, which allows real-time responses to alerts. It's also helpful that the AtHoc customer service team is always on hand for support.

Organizations like Macquarie University are keen on scalability and the ease of increasing functionality of their systems. AtHoc Networked Crisis Communication Suite provides several options for future expandability. With their evolving security needs, the campus security team is closely collaborating with the AtHoc team to ensure scaled functionality solutions are available on the Networked Crisis Communications Platform. A good example is a geo-targeting feature that can send alerts to building wardens and other staff members in specific locations in case of fire.

The staff who work late have been provided with a 'duress' button available on the AtHoc mobile application as an extra security measure besides the emergency buttons already fitted. The safety of students and staff is something that can't be underestimated.  AtHoc provides the scalability and functionality to be able to enhance the crisis communication system.

Georgina Hart

About Georgina Hart