By Paul Shain
From the October 2020 Issue
The COVID-19 pandemic has put the spotlight on facility safety once again. Organizations cannot afford further disruptions but need to put the well-being of the people that use their facilities at the forefront of their plans. New guidelines and recommendations are being announced on a daily basis, which requires flexibility so facilities can reopen safely. Doing so requires strong communication that helps keep everyone on the same page about new expectations, processes, and procedures. Every facility has distinct needs, but without the right tools in place, organizations’ leaders may be putting their people and facilities at risk.
That’s why many facilities are turning to mass notifications systems during this pandemic to help send communications that reach all stakeholders with updates. As facilities reopen it is important to be able to send health and safety alerts and reminders to reduce the risk of spreading the disease. Mass notification systems can connect to technology that many organizations already have in place to add value to existing investments. IP phones, IP speakers, desktop computers, and digital signage are among the devices that can be used to communicate with people within a facility. Mass notification systems can connect to these devices and activate them simultaneously to share messages that reach everyone with text and audio alerts. The more channels that an organization uses, the more likely it is that everyone within a facility receives the message.
As part of a facility’s safety plan in response to COVID-19, messages sent via a mass notification system can share reminders about maintaining social distance, wearing a mask, washing hands, and other preventative measures organizations may put in place to lower the chance of transmission. Using text and audio helps ensure that people take notice of new announcements no matter where they are or what they are doing. It also helps keep messaging consistent to reduce confusion about what people should be doing.
Mass notifications can also be used to help screen people before they enter a facility and identify potential outbreaks. Systems that can send notification to mobile devices and well as on-premises offer better message reach and can be used to stay in touch with people when they are not in a facility. This can be helpful for coordinating reopening efforts, as organizations can inform people if a reduced number of entrances are available, or if temperature checks will be required upon entering. Mass notifications can be sent as SMS text messages, emails, and push notifications to a mobile app, alerting people about new processes in place within a facility due to COVID-19.
Notifications can also ask recipients to respond to a question, such as if they are exhibiting any symptoms. People that respond “yes” can be followed up with asking them not to enter a facility until they are feeling better. Organizations can also use this information to identify anyone else who may have come in contact with that person and alert them as well.
If someone who has been in your facility tests positive for COVID-19, mass notifications can be used to alert people that facilities will be closed for cleaning or to alert people they may want to get tested. Messages for multiple eventualities can be developed in advance, as well as groups that need to receive the message. Some alerts may only need to go to upper-level managers, while others need to be sent to everyone. Mass notification systems allow users to build message templates and groups in advance so when an incident occurs it only takes a few selections to get the message out. Customization for messages also offers the ability to change text and audio as situations improve or worsen.
Mass notification can also help facilities manage ongoing incidents around the pandemic. Even with a plan in place it can be difficult to know exactly how events will unfold. Being able to quickly gather team members to assess situations and determine the best course of action can help keep operations running smoothly. Following an alert distribution, key stakeholders can be invited to join a virtual space via tools like Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex Teams.
With strong communication tools in place, like mass notification systems, facilities can provide a safe environment where people are informed about the measures they need to take to keep themselves and others healthy.
Shain is President and CEO of Singlewire Software, a provider of mass notification technology solutions. He has led the strategic direction of the company since its founding in 2009. He is a seasoned technology industry executive who previously was senior vice president and executive committee member at CDW, a leading provider of technology products and services for business, government, and education. Prior to CDW, Shain was CEO of Berbee Information Networks Corporation. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a bachelor’s degree and MBA in finance. He currently serves on the board of directors for Fiduciary Management Inc., American Family Insurance Company, and the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association.
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