But what about people who were hearing impaired? How could they know there was something wrong and that they had to leave the building?
Anf in our school systems, is there a way to make sure all of the clocks read the same time and all of the bells go off when they are supposed to?
“After Sept. 11, the U.S. Department of Commerce headquarters in Washington, D.C., realized it didn’t have a way to evacuate its buildings,” says Ken Bywaters, vice president of voice products for Berbee. “It hires a lot of hearing-impaired folks, so just normal audio paging doesn’t help much.”
Smart Business talked to Bywaters about a new system Berbee helped develop and the things it can do.
What’s the difference between the new addressing system and a traditional one?
Traditional systems haven’t changed much since the ‘40s. I still see systems with vacuum tubes and things that people somehow keep in working order. With traditional addressing systems, you have to build a separate network just for the speakers and the amplifiers used to power them. You put amplifiers on the dedicated network, and that’s where you get power. It’s very much an engineered approach. If later you want to make a change, you usually have to bring in an electrician or someone to change it for you. And if you want to talk to two buildings at one time, you’re sunk.
The new addressing system is more flexible, because it’s not just a PA but can also be used for messaging. People use this new approach for a variety of reasons. You can text and/or audio to any group of Cisco phones, PCs and IP speakers, which are similar to normal speakers that you have in your office. You simply plug them into a normal data jack and boot up like a computer and register with the paging server, wherever it is on the network.
What are some advantages?
You can upgrade over time, and you can page or talk to multiple locations at one time. There’s no limit to the number or size of the groups because everything is now in the software rather than in the hardware, and is very cost effective.
This concept is applied to schools, which have a unique set of problems. Every school district must supply a paging, bell scheduling and clock system to all of its schools. If you go into a district with a traditional system, it’s a mess because each school is different, depending on when the building was built. All three of the systems may be different and nothing is ever centralized. So what typically happens is that the clocks usually aren’t right, varying from classroom to classroom; the bells don’t ring when the clocks say they’re going to; you can’t talk to more than one building at a time and when Daylight Savings Time starts, it’s a bigger mess. One customer said the cost to his district for DST was $130 per clock, per year, and the district had more than 8,000 clocks. As a result, the school system would never change the clocks when the time changed.
Then you get places that have a snow day or a two-hour delay for some reason. The kids have to know when the bells will ring.
And for schools on the Gulf Coast that were affected by Hurricane Katrina, administrators can put these speakers in portable classrooms and then simply plug them into the new schools when they are completed.
From a security standpoint, superintendents can send text messages during a lockdown so as not to alarm the children or tip off the intruders. At night, a sound-activated microphone can play a message to scare away any intruders, then send a tape of the recorded sounds to an alarm company.
Administrators can put the systems on a single server at the district office and manage all their paging zones with no limits. Superintendents love it because they can talk to any building that they want to.
How cost effective is the new program?
Approximately half the cost of the traditional Bogen PA system, and that’s just in the installation and materials. The cost of maintenance goes way down, plus we can provide upgrades in the future and write new applications as well.
KEN BYWATERS is vice president of voice products for Berbee. Reach him at (608) 298-1021 or firstname.lastname@example.org.