By Julie Brown
From the October 2018 Issue
Picture this: a fire erupts in a university lecture hall, and while a fire suppression system has settled the flames, smoke is still billowing through the facility. Audio comes over a communications system indicating the need for an evacuation, while simultaneously sending information to a local emergency response dispatcher. The audio message states that there is another location on campus that is clear of smoke, providing visual signals to guide occupants safely to that area. All occupants are able to evacuate, thanks to an integrated mass notification approach.
Mass notification is the backbone of a facility’s communication infrastructure. Direct communication, visual signage, and voice communications are a few features of a comprehensive mass notification system, but when connected with other building systems, this can be taken a step further. In the university example above, the integration of mass notification’s voice communication system and visual signage with fire systems is the critical difference between a quick, safe exit and a catastrophic result. However, its crucial for facility managers in all types of buildings to consider integrating mass notification with other building systems to improve situational awareness and strengthen emergency response times.
Integrating Mass Notification
Facility and safety professionals are seeking more robust levels of protection, improved communication, and a heightened ability to mitigate, prepare, respond, and recover from incidents. Integrating mass notification with other building technologies, such as access control and sensors, can help provide an added layer of safety to maximize the security of occupants. For instance, occupancy sensors play an important role in monitoring occupant levels and locations within a facility. When connected, mass notification systems can use this data to deliver information to occupants during an emergency, like an intruder situation, based on their location. When the two are paired with access control, mass notification and sensors can work together to also lock the necessary entryways for increased security.
Outside of ensuring the safety of occupants, it’s equally as important to extend these integrated solutions to the perimeter of facilities. Video surveillance is a foundational perimeter protection system, but by connecting it with mass notification, security managers and emergency responders can be notified faster if suspicious activity is detected. Similar benefits can result when connected with drone technology as the integrated approach can help intensify the situational awareness of facility teams and improve communication during a threat.
Communication is a key component of a security strategy, which means mass notification is an essential system to integrate in order to bolster real-time notifications to occupants and staff during an emergency. And, as technology continues to drive advancements in security, mass notification systems can become more efficient by keeping pace. For example, the Internet of Things and cloud-based software can help ensure safe collaboration between individual systems and increase integration capabilities. Additionally, code updates, like those to NFPA 72 regarding signaling codes that call for visual, audible and two-way communications, can help enhance emergency communication. It’s important for mass notification to comply and follow suit with other security systems as upgrades are implemented in order to continue to be a valuable component in an integrated security approach.
Brown is institutional market leader for Johnson Controls Building Solutions North America. She is responsible for driving business results for key market and customer segments within North American healthcare and education verticals.
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