SimplexGrinnell assembles team for university requests

Thursday, May 10, 2007

WESTMINISTER, Mass.--Since the April tragedy at Virginia Tech., local SimplexGrinnell offices have been receiving a large volume of urgent calls from universities and colleges making inquiries about mass notification systems and looking for guidance about enhancing safety on campus in general.
In response, SimplexGrinnel has established a dedicated toll-free line to handle incoming inquiries, a website and SiimplexGrinnell president, Dean Seavers, sent a letter to presidents of Simplex's university customers offering to help. In addition, Simplex has pulled together an internal team "to help the local offices be in a position to support customers," said Chris Woodcock, SimplexGrinnell director of marketing and communications.
Rodger Reiswig, industry relations director, is working on code compliance issues. A regionally based field sales application team is working on technical solutions, and the central fire alarm and life safety support group is on call to work with district offices to come up with system proposals quickly.
SimplexGrinnell does a lot of work with fire alarms and large networked systems in the higher education vertical.
John Haynes, SimplexGrinnell, director of marketing, said he's hearing that "there is a flurry of activity at all levels, really a sense of crisis on campuses."
He said SimplexGrinnell sales people have been surprised to see "university presidents and provosts" at sales meetings. Students, faculty and parents are besieging administrations to find out what the university is doing to protect students. In addition, political officials around the country are asking similar questions.
Haynes noted, for example, that Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher on April 19 directed Kentucky's university presidents to submit campus emergency response plans to the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet. The plans will be reviewed for areas of possible expansion, such as alternative methods of communicating with students, faculty and staff in the event of an emergency situation.
Haynes noted that SimplexGrinnell has worked with the military over the past three years to implement mass notification systems, "now the [other] campus environments can benefit from that." Simplex is working with a few universities that are "fairly far along in implementing campus-wide voice system, other universities are not so far along."
There are a range of solutions that are available to fit different budgets."The sense I have is that by the time fall rolls around, the campuses want to have improvements in place ... There is a sense of urgency to take short-term measures. The other thing we see is a willingness to invest."
The challenge for Simplex, Haynes said, is educating the customer, particularly with the new decision makers, presidents and provosts for example, who have not previously been involved with life safety systems.
In many situations, universities have a "networked fire alarm system in place already. What [the customers] don't know, necessarily, is that you can add a mass notification system on top of that. It's a challenge for us to get the word out about that."
SimplexGrinnell is not the only fire company involved in mass notification systems. CooperWheelock in April acquired a mass notification company (see story in June's issue of Security Systems News).
Beth Welch, manager of media relations for several Honyewell Fire brands, said while the company has not noticed activity specifically as a result of the Virginia Tech tragedy, Honeywell does manufacture and install voice evacuation/ mass notification systems and "K-12 and colleges/universities, are one of the top verticals in which our systems are installed." Steve Hill, global communications leader for GE Security, in an email interview said, "The approach that we are taking in K-12 education [and other large campus settings such as hospitals and corporate parks] is also applicable to the higher education environment, and GE Security is prepared to offer our methodology and program to higher education as colleges and universities seek to identify additional methods to keep their campuses safe."