By Paul Shain
The recent events at the U.S. Capitol building highlighted how even seemingly secure buildings have vulnerabilities that can be exploited. While most personnel within the building were able to safely shelter in place, the building itself was overrun due to open doors and rudimentary barricades. This draws attention to an issue that many organizations may not even realize they have which is a disconnect between their lockdown and notification procedures.
While many organizations may have plans in place for locking down a facility and alerting people about an emergency event, if those two plans are not working in harmony with one another, there could be dire consequences. Without a unified solution, organizations waste time that should be spent working to resolve the incident that triggered the lockdown in the first place. It also leaves more room for error as separate procedures often entail more steps that may be missed and more people who need to understand the tasks they are responsible for carrying out. This can put people and property at unnecessary risk.
That’s why many organizations have turned to mass notification systems that can connect to electronic door locks so the moment an emergency occurs, notifications can be sent out to everyone and door locks can be activated. With a single system to manage a crisis event, organizations save time and minimize risk by getting messages out to more people more quickly.
Mass notification systems allow organizations to plan for emergency events ahead of time, so when an incident occurs, appropriate personnel can easily trigger alerts and activate other safety devices like door locks. System administrators can pre-build clear, concise messages to inform people a lockdown will be taking place. They can select who will receive the message and which devices will be used to broadcast the message. Systems that offer the ability to reach mobile devices as well as on-premises devices like IP phones, IP speakers, desktop computers, and digital signage offer the best chance of reaching as close to 100% of the intended audience as possible. Planning and configuring these details ahead of time ensure messages go out at a moment’s notice and take pressure off the administrator to create a message in the midst of a stressful situation.
Using a contact closure, mass notification systems can be configured to connect with electronic door locks. When a lockdown notification is triggered, it will also activate door locks to help secure a facility. Initiating lockdowns can prevent people from entering sensitive areas, and in some cases trap unwanted intruders in a specific location until security personnel or first responders are able to neutralize the threat. This can be particularly useful during active shooter situations, or in the event a person has gone missing and a facility needs to be searched.
Making the determination to initiate a lockdown can often be a difficult choice. That’s why it is important to bring in multiple departments when creating your safety plan who can provide input on when it is appropriate to lockdown your facility. Facility managers, human resources, and security personnel can all provide valuable input when discussing what events warrant a lockdown and what areas need to be locked down. Bringing in multiple teams has the added benefit of getting people familiar with the new systems and processes that may be implemented. Should an event occur, no one will be left wondering what they should be doing or how they can activate a lockdown.
If lockdown does need to be initiated, mass notification systems can also play a role in helping resolve the situation. In addition to using the Internet of Things to connect to door locks, mass notification systems can also be configured to connect with security cameras. When a notification is activated, appropriate personnel can be sent a URL to a live camera feed nearest to where the alert was initiated. This offers real-time insight into the situation as it unfolds so administrators can provide a more effective response. Administrators can also send follow up notifications to check and see if people are safe or need assistance. Notifications the require a response provide insight into people who have received previous messages and taken action, and where to direct needed assistance.
Crisis managements teams can collaborate on a response using mass notification as well. Following a mass notification distribution, select team members can be sent an invitation to join a virtual space in tools like Microsoft Team or Cisco Webex Teams, or to join a conference call. This helps bring together the right people in a short amount of time so they can assess a situation as it unfolds and determine the best next steps.
Notifying people about an emergency and activating physical security measures should be as simple as possible. Bringing disparate systems together with a mass notification tool reduces complexity and minimizes risk to provide a better chance for having a positive outcome during a crisis.
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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