By Allan Sutherland
From the December 2017 Issue
The power and capabilities of mass notification systems often go unnoticed, except in that moment when they are needed most. Regardless of whether that moment is for routine use or as an emergency tool for life safety, it’s important to evaluate your priorities in order to choose a system that will best suit your needs. Here’s a list of five things to consider before choosing a mass notification system for your facilities.
1. Setting Up The System
Sometimes a mass notification system with highly advanced capabilities can be the hardest to set up. In the selection process, it’s important to consider how much work needs to be done to set up the system. Consider whether you can use existing assets or if you need to start new. For instance, some systems may require a transfer of e-mail databases, or installation of new equipment.
The type of additional resources needed to operate the system can be the deciding factor for some. Many intricate mass notification systems require extensive and specific training. If that isn’t an option due to resource constraints, choosing a system that requires minimal setup is likely a better option.
2. What Type Of Information Needs To Be Shared?
As stated above, some facilities have routine events where mass notification is needed, while some would only use it in the event of an emergency. Consider what type of information you want the mass notification system to be capable of sharing. For example, is it imperative that you be able to send photos and video through the system, or is text-only sufficient?
Another important factor to consider is whether messages need to be communicated in multiple languages. Reaching a large amount of people is the first part of the task, but it’s also critical that whoever receives the message is able to understand what is being communicated so they can take action.
When you’re talking about life safety alerts and mass notification, reliability is the most important thing to consider. In that moment, when every second counts, you want a system that you can rely on… it could mean lives being saved. It’s not just a matter of the system functioning properly every time; it’s being confident that the system alert will be received by as many people as possible, giving them the ability to take action.
In order for a system to be reliable, it must have a good connection to its preferred mode of transmission. Consider whether a system relies on cell towers, wireless or Internet service, working power, etc., and whether or not there will be access to that mode of transmission when you need to send a notification.
4. Maintenance And Updates
Once you have a mass notification system in place, the next piece is maintaining and updating the system. What good is the system if you have an outdated contact list? Gone are the days of sign-in sheets and other manual forms of phone and email collection. There are systems that include options for automated data collection that can be much more effective. If you have a facility with many people coming and going, it’s especially important to implement a system that easily updates contacts in an efficient way.
5. Location, Location, Location
A big trend in facility management is “location-aware” systems, meaning the system has geo-location capabilities. This is a game-changer for many, as some systems have the ability to provide a virtual headcount as to how many are in a given area of a facility and allow the user to individually message those whom they know may need assistance. This can be incredibly important in a fire or mass shooter scenario—where having an efficient way to know if more people are in danger can make all the difference.
Before choosing a mass notification system, understand what your needs are and what options are available. These five factors provide a good starting point to guide you towards a system that will best suit your facilities.
Sutherland is Founder, CEO, and President of In-telligent, a telecommunications company and creator of the In-telligent platform, a mass notification system and accompanying mobile application that enables communities of various types to communicate with their members.
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