Inova part of Va. Tech’s mass. notification system

Monday, December 1, 2008

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.--Inova Solutions has provided real-time information through its smart LED displays in business- and in mass-transit applications since 1984, but it wasn’t until the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 that company executives realized that this product could play a role in mass notification systems.

Inova’s displays were being used in the Washington metro to give subway passengers train arrival and other travel information. On Sept. 11, 2001, the displays were among the few remaining functional communication devices after the attacks, and they were used to divert passengers from the Pentagon.

“All of the sudden, we had new insight into the product,” said Berkly Trumbo, director for emergency communications systems for Inova.

Inova’s OnAlert displays use Power-over-Ethernet technology to display customized messages on LED wallboards. The product is now being sold as an emergency communication device that can (but does not need to) be integrated with other mass notification systems. It’s available through a number of distributors including Anixter. SimplexGrinnell has OEM’d a version of the product that works through an addressable loop and “is engineered to fit the requirements of NFPA 72,” Trumbo said. The 2009 edition of NFPA 72 will include requirements for mass notification systems being tied into fire systems.

Virginia Technical University installed 120 OnAlert displays as part of its multi-modal, multi-tiered mass notification system, which includes text messaging, email, phone calls to home, office, and cell phones, as well as the OnAlert displays. Students rank their preferred method of contact and the system cycles through all points of contact until it receives confirmation of receipt.

Trumbo said Va. Tech officials worked hard to ensure their system is “holistic and redundant.” The OnAlert displays are particularly useful, he said, when students or faculty are in a classroom or someplace else where they don’t have ready access to cell phones or email; during a power failure; and, when there are delays or interruption in cell tower coverage.

While college campuses are a likely application for this product, Trumbo said the company has received inquiries from the military and manufacturing organizations.