September 2013 marked the 10th annual observance of National Preparedness Month, sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. We agree that it’s important to continually educate the public, reminding us about being prepared in the event of a fire, natural disaster, terrorist attack, etc. But situational awareness to enhance emergency alerting and response management is our business at Status Solutions year round.
Right-now awareness in the form of detailed alerts delivered automatically via multiple devices to those most likely to be affected, as well as on- and off-site responders, greatly improves emergency preparedness and response. If you can read, hear and see what’s happening around you, then you can do something about it – including hopefully avoid the danger.
Knowledge, or awareness, means better risk management for enterprises. But there are some things to keep in mind …
Fight apathy. When developing crisis or emergency preparedness plans, you should always begin with desired outcomes and work backward. Doing so will strip away latency and eliminate impediments that damage your ability to protect people and property. Look at every possible scenario. “It won’t happen here” denial or apathy is not the basis for a sound risk management strategy.
Understand that specificity matters. Emergencies unfold rapidly, so you need to be able to communicate and/or receive detailed information about what the situation is and where it’s occurring. Fire panels and other alarm systems signal an emergency via sirens and strobe lights, but they don’t provide critical details. Situational awareness via SARA helps both onsite and offsite authorities better and faster determine where an incident is occurring. Alarms are bad, but alerts are good because you know what’s really happening. And you can make even more informed decisions with video pages and interactive maps via surveillance camera integration.
Centralize alerting and automate mass notification. Driving situational awareness to as many screens as possible is key — from workstations (desktops and laptops), smartphones and pagers to tablets and digital signage, including closed-caption TVs, and of course public address systems and two-way radios. The automatic delivery of alerts to multiple communication end points provides expedience and redundancy to greatly enhance life safety. Tying together disparate alarm systems into a centralized monitoring and automated alerting system will improve outcomes. Situational awareness technology lets you tell key individuals, select groups or entire populations concurrently what’s happening and where, along with associated response plans.
Complete the picture. Life safety is the most important consideration in day-to-day operations and during an emergency. However, true situational awareness integrates life safety as well as security and environmental monitoring to notify you about what’s happening in and around your organization, maximizing your ability to protect people in addition to other assets. Downtime and inconvenience are also bad for business.
Test and verify. Lots of vendors may tout a single technology, such as panic buttons, to address many possible life safety and security needs. Every technology serves a purpose, but each tends to operate in a silo. What are you desired outcomes? Those answers will determine your technology needs. You’ve got to ensure that the company you’re working with is capable of delivering the solution your organization needs without taking a cookie-cutter approach. That mean customization and real computer-telephony integration.