MASS NOTIFICATION SYSTEMS: CAN YOUR ORGANIZATION BENEFIT FROM ONE?
The short answer? Yes.
There isn’t an organization in the world that won’t benefit from implementing an emergency communication system, and with so many options now available it is both cost-effective and easy to implement based on your business needs.
Mass notification systems have been a part of public life from the start, although we have come a long way from using church bells and horseman to notify a town of an impending emergency. While sirens are still one of the most essential and common methods of notification, the trend has shifted heavily toward the mobile realm, taking advantage of the fact that everyone typically has their smart phone at arm’s length. With notifications ranging from flashing lights, mass text messages, and sirens that offer a speech option detailing the type of emergency, there is an option available now that can reach anyone regardless of their location in the building or any visual/hearing impairments.
The need for a mass notification system was aggressively pushed to the forefront of conversation in 2011 following the Virginia Tech massacre that claimed 33 lives. While the school had a mass notification system in place, it relied heavily on students checking their email and left those who did not have immediate access to email traveling blindly throughout campus unaware of the danger. Speed became the most important topic when discussing notification, with many schools such as St. John’s University in New York implementing an emergency text message system that was delivered to the students as a threat was occurring instead of afterward. This method has also been adopted by some organizations in conjunction with fire alarm systems, having a text message automatically triggered the instant a fire alarm is activated in case any employees are unable to hear the alarms or see flashing signals.
Digital monitors have also begun to emerge as an alternative communication in situations where mobile phones may be drowned out by a noisy public environment, switched off (such as in movie theatres), or out of service in underground public transportation. Triggered by an alarm or one-touch notification, regular broadcasts are replaced with messages (a smaller scale version of the emergency broadcast system on television networks) alerting the public in the immediate area of an emergency and how everyone should proceed, typically via monitors positioned throughout public areas. Notification like this would have proved incredibly useful in situations such as the 2012 Aurora, CO theatre shooting or during the 2007 attacks on the London Underground, where mobile phones and radio systems were turned off, out of service, or unable to function underground. Radio networks are beginning the shift toward stronger signals that can function in these “dead zones” where the public is unable to rely on smart phones.
When designing a system for your organization, there are several new and innovative features that can maximize your efforts to reach all employees. With features that can offer automatic translation up to ten languages, one-touch calling for key personnel, easily customizable notification groups, messaging that sends receipt validation, limited or no installation requirements, web-based interface with minimal training, 24-hour call center backup in case your internet fails, and many more, everyone will have an opportunities to be notified when necessary. With all of these features designed to deliver quick and effective messaging, you will have done everything possible to ensure your employee population is safe and informed.