What is a Mass Notification System (MNS)
A mass notification system is an essential tool used to quickly and efficiently deliver emergency notifications to a large subset of people. They are becoming increasingly important systems for school, hospital, and multi-site business campus facility managers to warn individuals about threats inside and outside of the building, and provide a succinct safety protocol that immediately puts them out of harm’s way.
How Does It Work?
There are several different ways a facility can integrate a mass notification system, and it is important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. A thorough risk analysis of the building infrastructure, how it is used, and the people that use it is mandatory so that the right message is delivered to the right people at the right time.
When an emergency situation is threatening the facility, a mass notification system will aggressively reach those in danger through two major tiers of communication, depending on the needs of the facility. The first tier includes physical infrastructure alerts including sirens, loudspeakers, intercoms, radio and TV announcements, emergency lights, or electronic displays. The second tier runs parallel with the first tier and delivers notifications directly to personal devices like cell phones, email, pagers, or social media. Through pre-established distribution lists, this alert system can target different subsets of people and tailor the emergency messages depending on the threat, location, time of day, or any other variable that could effect both the audience and the proper safety protocol.
Integrate a MNS in Your Facility
Every system should begin with an emergency plan. Run a thorough security audit of your entire facility and identify all potential risks. It is important to understand that not all risks are incidences of unauthorized access or violent intruders. Be sure to address emergency weather conditions, structure fires, or carbon monoxide levels as all of these dangers require the same swift communication to keep everyone safe.
When running through your security evaluation, take time to identify all of the key players when responding emergency situations. Who is the first contact? Who is responsible for what areas of the facility? The more more you can fine point the chain of command, the more efficient your facility’s response to crisis situations will be.
It is important to make sure the system that is used is also integrated to alert the appropriate emergency first responders in your area. Be sure to work closely with your local police and fire departments to ensure the system is working correctly and that the entire network is receiving the alerts promptly.
As with all new security solutions, the technology is only as effective as the individuals operating the system. That is why detailed and frequent training with mass notification systems is crucial for highly-effective crisis management. Top-down training will make sure managers and operators know their responsibilities and can communicate the responsibility of the everyday users of the system including how to use the equipment and technology, proper safety precautions, and emergency procedures so that there is a unified system across all personnel.
Part of training includes regular testing of the notifications to make sure that the system is working to capacity. This will also give users the opportunity to be comfortable with the technology, and to remind them to frequently check the system and familiarize themselves with all of its working components.
Adopting New Technology
Most facilities already have some sort of call system in place like PA systems, intercoms, loudspeakers, or electronic signage. When evaluating your building’s emergency preparedness, consider the systems you already have installed and find solutions that build on the existing infrastructure. There may be opportunities to integrate a notification system that runs parallel to the tier 1 communication solutions like text messages, computer alerts, email blasts, or even social media notifications that can efficiently target messages to directly to your audience.
There is no shortage of new security solutions for managers – so if you have any questions about how a Mass Notification System can work for your facility, reach out to one of our SD6 Alliance members and they will work with you directly to provide the right solution for you.