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July, 2019

CUA Stays Alert

By Maggie Master

New emergency stations feature phones and surveillance cameras to provide a "virtual fence of surveillance" around the campus perimeter.

In the aftermath of the Virginia Tech University shootings last April, CUA has adopted some key measures designed to increase security and enhance emergency communication among the campus community.

The university has spent more than $900,000 to upgrade security on campus. The enhancements include 11 new emergency phones, a doubling of public safety assistants in student areas and the installation of 22 “smart” closed-circuit television cameras. These cameras have been placed in strategic locations around campus, such as the rear of Cardinal Hall East and the 7th Street side of Spellman Hall. They are equipped with behavior-recognition technology, which enables CUA's Department of Public Safety to monitor key areas. The cameras have the capability to automatically alert CUA's public safety officers of any unusual or suspicious behavior.

These smart cameras are programmed to look for different behaviors at different times of day. A person running down 7th Street at 3 p.m. might just be a jogger, but someone running down that same road at 3 a.m. might be grounds for alarm, and so the cameras are cued to look for such abnormalities. The devices transmit live video feed to a control room in CUA's Department of Public Safety and alert the public safety officer monitoring the video screens by isolating the suspect behavior in a highlighted box on the screen.

Officers can also pan, tilt and zoom the cameras remotely to monitor a specific area more closely.

By increasing the number of smart cameras, especially around the perimeter of campus, the university hopes to create a “virtual fence of surveillance,” according to Linda M. Vann, CUA’s captain of crime prevention in the Department of Public Safety.

“This will give us greater access to areas on campus where a Department of Public Safety officer is not located,” Vann says. “It’s a very positive move for the university in assisting us with the safety of the campus community.”

Emergency phones put students in immediate contact with public safety officers.
CUA is also pushing students, staff and faculty to sign up for Alert DC, a rapid notification text-messaging service provided by the District of Columbia Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency. The system delivers emergency alerts, notifications and updates via text message to a recipient’s desired point of contact: e.g., an e-mail account, cell phone, pager, BlackBerry or wireless PDA (personal digital assistant). Alert DC offers real-time updates, instructions on where to go, what to do, who to contact and other important information sought during an emergency situation. As of Nov. 28, 2,029 CUA community members had signed up for this alert service.

Registering for Alert DC takes less than three minutes by logging on to and following the registration prompts. Participants can select from a range of subjects they’d like to be notified about, including Metrorail delays and emergency alerts about a particular neighborhood, public school or college campus. All members of the CUA community are strongly encouraged to sign up for Alert DC and to select CUA as one of the entities from which they wish to receive alerts. Four CUA officials have the capability to send messages to Alert DC subscribers in the event of a campus emergency.

Another recent enhancement to safety preparedness on campus is the Department of Public Safety’s emergency management Web page. All faculty, staff and students are urged to visit and to bookmark the page, It contains standard operating procedures in the event of a disaster or an emergency situation on campus. The page offers emergency-response guidelines for a host of scenarios, including evacuation, fire, a gunman on campus or a bomb threat.

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Last Revised 28-Nov-07 11:39 AM.