New safety features to be implemented at Parkland

Photo by Greg Gancarz Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police, William P. Colbrook, sitting in his office.

Photo by Greg Gancarz
Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police, William P. Colbrook, sitting in his office.

Greg Gancarz

Staff Writer

Parkland students and staff can expect to see numerous new emergency and safety features put into effect at the college ,including a new mass-alert system, upgrades to the fire detectors and alarms, and a new campus police SUV.

The new mass-messaging system, which has already been implemented, is perhaps the most noticeable upgrade for staff and students. Along with messages that have already gone out, students and staff should expect to receive further texts, emails, and phone calls throughout the semester to test the system’s capabilities and work out any additional glitches still present in the new hardware.

Upgrades to the fire alert and detection systems are also already in place. The brand new Ford police interceptor is in the process of being outfitted but will be deployed within days.

While the new messaging system is already in effect, William Colbrook, chief of police and director of public safety at Parkland, says the security and technology staff are still learning about the system due to the huge number of capabilities it possesses.

“We’re still trying to tweak the technology, to squeeze out as much performance as possible. So, even though we’ve done a couple tests already, we anticipate a test or two as we go along through the semester,” Colbrook says.

He explains further testing will most likely take place on days without classes so there is minimal disruption.

In addition to the upgrades to Parkland’s mass-messaging platform, a $1.5 million fire alert system upgrade, which includes a new campus-wide PA system, was implemented.

“There was technically a PA system here at the college [before] but it was so ineffective, you really couldn’t hear any discernable words over the speakers,” Colbrook said. “Now, at master panels throughout the college, anybody from Public Safety can get on the microphone and broadcast a message campus-wide. We have so many avenues now to message the constituents that we didn’t have before.”

Regarding the new upgrades that were put into place, Colbrook says, “We found in the bomb threat we had about a year and a half ago that the performance was too slow. The time it took to notify everyone was way too long.”

During the fall semester 2015, Parkland was victim to an ultimately-unfounded bomb threat. Emergency notifications were received at variable times, with some reporting they got the warning on their computers or phones immediately and others getting it up to a day later.

According to Colbrook, the previous system, which had been in use for some years, was “archaic” overall and needed to be upgraded.

“It may have been the best thing going for the price back in the day but technology is always improving,” says Colbrook.

The concerns about the system’s performance led to research with neighboring colleges and universities to find out what kind of performance and system response time they had. It concluded with the decision to upgrade the safety and security systems. The replacement for the old mass-messenger is a program written and developed “from the ground up specifically for colleges’ and universities’ mass-messaging needs,” says Colbrook.

Regarding whether or not he’s happy with all the new upgrades, Colbrook says that there is always room for improvement.

“Well, I’m never completely happy. In emergency management, we’re always striving to be a little bit better tomorrow than we were today. That’s just kind of the nature of the business,” Colbrook says. “We’re always doing something to upgrade or to think about upgrades. Whether it’s working on our police cars, configuring the radios, even the police department here.”

Colbrook says that the new system is definitely one example of the department making improvements.

“[The new system is] functional and it should be regarded as a better system and a big upgrade to what we used to have,” Colbrook says. “Our goal is when there’s an emergency, we need to alert anybody that’s here that they need to A: pay attention, B: get up, and C: start doing something. Whatever the case may be, there’s now a mode of communication for any particular hazard that may come along, so to say that we’ve made upgrades, we sure have. We have on multiple levels.”

Parkland-goers are always free to consult Public Safety offices and police officers on campus for further information. Students, staff, and faculty are also advised to keep an eye out for any emails sent by Public Safety for further tips and notifications about changes to systems or safety protocol.