Using Remote Monitoring Systems to Enhance Campus Safety on a Budget

By Andrew Erickson

June 7, 2024

Ensuring the safety of everyone on campus is a huge concern for university administrators. Unfortunately, often due to budget constraints, many institutions struggle with outdated or inadequate alarm monitoring systems.

The risks associated with these shortcomings can be severe. Consequences can range from delayed emergency responses to government fines/penalties/liability to injury and loss of life.

Together we will discuss:

  • Issues with inadequate alarm monitoring
  • Key factors of a successful monitoring system
  • How to find the best alarm monitoring solution
College Building
The safety of everyone on campus is a huge concern

What are the Issues with Inadequate Campus Alarm Monitoring?

Imagine it's the middle of the night on a large college campus. The dormitories are quiet. Most students are sound asleep (it must be a weeknight!), while a few are still up studying or socializing. Suddenly, a fire breaks out in the basement of one of the older dorm buildings.

The outdated alarm system in place is unreliable. The fire detection system is not integrated with a central monitoring station on campus, so campus safety staff are not immediately aware of the danger.

By the time the security team is notified by third-party monitoring and reaches the dormitory, the fire has spread significantly. The time wasted has caused more damage and put more lives at risk. Even worse: this is not the only problematic scenario that can result from lacking monitoring systems.

Other issues that can arise from inadequate systems include:

  1. Fragmented monitoring: If you are like most universities, you probably operate multiple, disjointed alarm systems across different buildings. This fragmentation makes it difficult to get a comprehensive view of campus safety in real-time.
  2. Limited remote monitoring: Traditional alarm systems often lack remote monitoring capabilities. You can't access new alarm information when away from the central dispatch console. This restricts the ability of security personnel to respond promptly to incidents occurring at different locations on campus.
  3. Poor data presentation: Older systems typically require some expertise to understand. Alarm messages can be cryptic at a time when you absolutely need clear alerts. This hinders efficient incident management and reporting.

What Are Key Features of a Reliable System?

  1. Centralized monitoring: Your monitoring system should allow for the centralized monitoring of alarms from multiple buildings. This will provide a comprehensive view of campus safety.
  2. Real-time data management: The ability to manage alarm data in real-time ensures that your system immediately alerts any security personnel of any incidents. This enables rapid responses.
  3. Remote access: The ideal system supports remote access. This allows security teams to monitor alarms from various locations on and off campus.
  4. Redundant system configuration: To ensure continuous operation, your alarm monitoring system should be set up as a redundant system. This way you will have one unit operating online and another as a backup.
  5. Customizable notifications: The best systems allow for the customization of alarm notifications. these systems use different sounds and colors to prioritize and distinguish between various types of alarms. You should also be able to send alarms to different teams and, depending on your local AHJ regulations, forward alarms to the local fire department.

How Can You Find the Ideal Monitoring Solution?

It is important to be particular in your search for an alarm monitoring system solution. You'll want to find a system which is designed specifically to address your exact challenges.

An example of such is the System 3505 Prism LX, which is a head-end from Digitize.

System 3505 Prism LX
For those who wish to monitor their fire monitoring system instead of hiring a third party, the Prism LX is one example of a readily available server on the market.

Benefits of the Prism LX for Universities

  1. Enhanced emergency response: The Prism LX ensures that emergency responses are swift and coordinated, minimizing risk and damage. The device does so through centralized monitoring and real-time data management. As obvious as it may be, this will lower the cost of your operations by getting rid of damage expenses. The improvement in public safety is impossible to price - but the related liability savings (including reduced insurance premiums) has an exact dollar figure.
  2. Improved campus safety: The Prism LX integrates various alarm systems into one cohesive unit. This provides a comprehensive view of the safety of campus. The device ensures that security personnel are immediately alerted to any anomalies. These alerts help to prevent incidents before they escalate.
  3. Increased efficiency: The system’s ability to manage alarms remotely and in real-time reduces delays.
  4. Scalability: The Prism LX can be scaled to meet the needs of virtually any campus. The system is suitable for a range of campus sizes. These sizes can range from small colleges (big enough to justify in-house monitoring) to large universities with dozens of buildings and extensive geographic spread.
  5. Reliability: With redundant system components and strong supervisorial capabilities, the Prism LX ensures continuous operation. This provides peace of mind to university administrators.

Implementing the Prism LX: a Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Conduct a Comprehensive Campus Audit

Before implementing a system like the Prism LX, conduct a thorough audit of the existing alarm systems across the campus. Identify the current capabilities, limitations, and gaps that need to be addressed.

Step 2: Develop an Integration Plan

Work with Digitize or a certified installer to develop a detailed integration plan. This plan should outline how the Prism LX will be integrated with existing fire alarm and campus security systems. That likely includes a variety of other Digitize equipment to integrate legacy fire alarm gear with the Prism LX. This will ensure minimal disruption during the transition.

Step 3: Install the Prism LX

Begin the installation process by setting up the Prism LX units in a centralized location. Make sure that all relevant buildings and alarm systems are connected to the new head-end system.

Step 4: Configure and Test the System

Once installed, configure the Prism LX to meet the specific needs of your campus. This includes setting up custom notifications, remote annunciators, and redundant systems. Conduct thorough testing to ensure the system operates seamlessly and efficiently.

Step 5: Train Security Personnel

Provide comprehensive training for all security personnel on how to use the new system. This training should cover monitoring procedures, response protocols, and data management. Digitize offers free training on a regular basis. You can also purchase on-site training at your own facility.

University of Pennsylvania
Huntsman Hall at the University of Pennsylvania

Real-World Applications: UPenn

The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) is an Ivy League research institution located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Despite being located in a large city, the campus is rather small.

UPenn has 147 university buildings all within three square miles. The density of this highly populated area leaves the university with several specific fire safety concerns. To address these concerns, UPenn implemented the System 3505 Prism LX.

Before working with Digitize, UPenn's fire alarm system consisted of a bundle of 200 copper wires. The system also contained phone lines that monitored alarms throughout the campus.

Issues arose during an incident where a construction crew had hit the cable bundle within UPenn's system. This damaged the system's connection, putting a significant portion of the entire campus alarm monitoring system offline.

The solutions provided by Digitize created many benefits for safety and success of the university. Digitize has had a relationship with UPenn for over 30 years. During those years, the two have consistently worked together. The two have overcome any challenges the university has faced and continue to optimize their fire alarm monitoring system.

Choose Digitize to Help Enhance and Ensure Campus Safety

You cannot compromise the safety of students, faculty, staff, and visitors on campus. With the help of an effective alarm monitoring system, you can ensure that safety on campus is maintained.

University administrators looking to improve their campus alarm systems should consider the Prism LX as a versatile and reliable option. Investing in quality alarm monitoring technology not only safeguards the campus community, but also demonstrates a commitment to proactive safety management.

Contact Digitize today to schedule a consultation and system demonstration.

For more information on how the Prism LX can benefit your university, call 1-800-693-0351 or email

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson is an Application Engineer at DPS Telecom, a manufacturer of semi-custom remote alarm monitoring systems based in Fresno, California. Andrew brings more than 17 years of experience building site monitoring solutions, developing intuitive user interfaces and documentation, and...Read More