SimplexGrinnell assembles team for university requests

SSN Staff  - 
Friday, June 1, 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 (877-590-SAFE) to handle incoming inquiries, a website and SimplexGrinnell 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 for review.
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." There are a range of solutions that are available to fit different budgets, but there is a real sense of urgency on campuses and "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 page 1).
Honyewell's Fire brands manufacture and install voice evacuation/ mass notification systems and serve "K-12 and colleges/universities. As does GE Security, in which does work in K-12 education and does other large campus settings such as hospitals and corporate parks, using technology that is also applicable to the higher education environment.