Mass notification is a critical part of emergency planning. Without a way to alert your employees or students about an emergency, you have no way to manage your most valuable assets – your people. Imagine a scenario where an active shooter is in the main lobby of your multi-story building. You have no formal mass notification system, so someone pulls the fire alarm in an attempt to alert people to the shooter. Because people have been trained to exit the building when they hear a fire alarm, most of your employees dutifully shuffle down the stairs to make their way out the main entrance. In other words, they head straight to the location of the shooter. Proper mass notification in this situation would have altered your employees to the nature of the threat, it would have initiated a lockdown procedure, and it would have kept other employees from coming into the office at that time.
When considering installing and implementing a mass notification systems, decision-makers should consider the following points:
- Will it include the ability to send text messages to users?
- Will there be ways to alert users who do not have their cell phones on hand (e.g., scrolling marquees, email, audible sounders)?
- Is the system easy to maintain? Will the vendor/installer work with you if problems arise?
- Will it be easy to add new users as necessary?
- Will the system be user-friendly?
- Can the system be integrated in to your security management system?
- Will the system be easy for administrators/executives to use during an emergency?
- What are the upfront costs? What are the monthly costs?
- Do you want the system to have bi-directional communication (e.g., ability for users to give feedback or respond to certain alerts)?
- Do you want maps to be part of the system, where users can view a map of where the emergency is occurring?
- Do you want to be able to send alerts to various audiences (e.g., employees only, certain office locations only, executives only, etc.) rather than all users?
- Will the system support your organization’s emergency action plan?
There are many mass notification systems on the market, and there are many features that can be included in whatever system you choose. Mass notification is such a critical facet of emergency preparedness – it is important that your organization have some way to alert your people of an emergency or threat. Make sure you get the right system for your organization’s needs, size, types of users, location, and culture.