Keeping Library Patrons and Staff Safe in Appleton, Wisconsin

The Situation

Conveniently located 30 miles southwest of Green Bay and 100 miles north of Milwaukee, Appleton is a small, inviting city in Northeast Wisconsin that overlooks the Fox River. The city is perhaps most famous as the boyhood town of famed magician Harry Houdini. But when one of the busiest public places in this normally peaceful town became the location of a violent incident, city leaders quickly took proactive action to protect the community.

In May of 2019 a tragic shooting incident took place in front of the library and the city's adjacent Valley Transit Center. An individual being treated for a drug overdose shot and killed a firefighter and injured a police officer before being shot by law enforcement officials. The city had previously addressed security in the neighborhood around the city’s library, but this frightening incident made security an even higher priority.

Collaborative efforts and proactive action create a winning solution

The city needed a security solution. Rudy Nyman, former police captain for Appleton Police Department and now Public Safety Business Development Manager for Nielson Communications, Inc. had an answer. Nyman was very familiar with Response Technologies, having used Centurion Scout Portable Alarm Systems during his 27 years in law enforcement. "I knew Response Technologies offered quality products," Nyman says. Because of this, Nyman was enthusiastic about his organization's partnership with Response Technologies. He was confident that, together, Nielson Communications and Response Technologies could offer an effective total security solution to the city.

Collaboration was key—not only with Response Technologies and Nielson, but also with city officials and law enforcement. Nyman and the Response Technologies channel team initially met with Dean Gazza, Parks, Recreation & Facilities Management Director, who manages the library and other city buildings, and with Colleen Rortvedt, Appleton Library Director, among other city officials.

When introduced to Response Technologies' Centurion Elite® security system, two points particularly hit home, according to Nyman. Officials were impressed with the two-second response time from sensor activation to responder notification and with how agile the system was. The city could invest in the system now and later expand to other parts of the city and even relocate it to a new library facility. “What appealed to me about the solution recommended by Nielson Communications was the ease of installation into our existing building,” says Gazza. “I was extremely pleased to know that we would not have to run new wiring and we would have the flexibility for future growth.”

Prepare for the future with safety today

"The decision makers realized they needed to make changes to keep everyone safe," Nyman says. The library did not have funds set aside for security; however, the city was planning a new library/mixed-use property scheduled for construction in 2022. Gazza had already been exploring security options for the new building. When the finance committee found the Centurion Elite® system could be purchased and used immediately in the existing library—and then relocated to the new building—they voted to use funds from the building program. The security system is entirely wireless so it is not difficult to move it to the new library facility, with adjustments to the new space.

In addition to leveraging the existing equipment in the new facility, the Centurion Elite® system can also expand and scale into other city buildings with the simple addition of the Centurion Gateway® remote receiver. This is something the city may consider in the future. “Though we don’t have any immediate plans to expand the system we placed a high importance on having the ability to do so in the future,” says Gazza.

The Appleton Library Security Solution

Creating a total solution began with many walk-throughs to determine the locations of door sensors, the number of panic buttons, and other factors, according to Nyman. Nielson Communications' two-way radios for critical incident communication complemented the Centurion Elite® system and tools to provide a total solution that includes:

  • Centurion Elite®. This award-winning enterprise solution sends emergency alert notifications to first responders direct-to-radio as well as through text and email through
  • PC Alert.PCAlert® runs on any Windows-based PC to provide alerts on desktops throughout the library.
  • One-button duress (emergency/panic) buttons and two-button duress buttons are in various locations throughout the library.
  • Door and window sensors throughout the building alert staff if doors are opened, closed or propped open. Some are only active at certain times, based on areas in use.
  • Front-door lock-down system uses magnetic locks and the two-function duress buttons not only lock the front door remotely from an outside threat, but also activate a radio notification to Appleton's police department that instantly reaches all officers on duty.
  • Public Wall Lock Down Button, located on the library's exterior wall, can be hit to notify staff that there's disturbance outside so employees can use the two-function duress buttons to lock the doors. Although manufactured by a different company, the Centurion Elite® components work seamlessly with this separate resource.
  • Portable two-way radios support critical communication. "To have a well-rounded security solution, we have to have a good partner, especially in the radio venue," said one member of the Response Technologies Ltd. Channel team. They also add that communication is critical for those who must react in an emergency. They need the ability to receive information as quickly as first responders so they know what to do—where to go to avoid harm's way. "Our radios with the Centurion Elite® system offer a full-service solution and augment the system with an extra layer of security protection as well as customer service," says Nyman. The radios provide a total communications solution with the ability to talk to any parts of library, even in non-emergency situations, such as alerting a custodian to a facility issue.


Training and follow up

“Training is an important part of the system for staff and law enforcement,” adds Nyman, who has years of active shooter response training and functions as lead trainer. "Personnel are very confident after training in what's expected and what the system can and can't do." Quick fact sheets further help.

"The library leadership didn't rush into going live with the system," Nyman adds. "They wanted to make sure everyone was onboard and trained – from dispatching to staff to officers – so if a button is pushed and a message goes out, everyone knows what they need to do."

Ready to move and grow

It has been the strong group collaboration that has ensured the best system for the library, Nyman shares. He praises Director Rortvedt for driving the decision to add extra security for library visitors and staff. “The Appleton Public Library welcomes over 400,000 visitors a year from all ages and walks of life,” says Rortvedt. “It is essential that we have the tools to keep the public and staff safe and that the tools are easy to use. This system helps give staff the peace of mind that should they need to call for help, the police will be notified instantly and respond to the location in the building where they are needed.”

Nielson Communications and Response Technologies initially installed the system in October 2019 and finalized add-ons in February of 2020. "I think the library appreciates the customer service we've provided," says Nyman. "We didn't just install the system and disappear. We've continued to support them, whether it's working with the IT director to get PCAlert upgrades installed or providing additional training. The working relationship is very important to us."

All public libraries take their roles as public institutions that serve all very seriously. Several in the area have asked Rortvedt about this system and started evaluating their own needs. In the meantime, library visitors and staff in Appleton can use the facility with confidence, knowing that security systems are in place should they ever be needed.

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