Washington University wins award for emergency communications project

Washington University in St. Louis received a prestigious award from a nonprofit group serving information technology professionals at higher education institutions.

ACUTA awarded WUSTL an Institutional Excellence in Communications Technology Award this year, for the first time. The award, the group’s premier recognition of IT work completed on college campuses, recognizes the university’s Emergency Mass Communications Dashboard Project.

Matt Arthur, Information Services & Technology director of media services and incident communications solutions, explained that the project was a mass communications plan designed to quickly and easily relay information about emergencies to everyone in the university community through one web-accessible interface.

There was no product the university could buy off the shelf that would meet its needs. So IS&T and Emergency Management officials worked with vendors to develop a system that ensures its various methods of emergency communication, from sirens and public-address systems to websites and text messages, could all be activated at once and share the same message through the various platforms. Now, police dispatchers can select a pre-scripted alert from a drop-down menu, hit a button and send out the message in its various forms in less than a minute. The technology also was set up to automatically share weather alerts without requiring human intervention.

Arthur also received an individual award at this spring’s ACUTA conference, the Ruth A. Michalecki Leadership Award. He is a former president of ACUTA.