This blog post is about the importance of a situational awareness strategy and how it can prevent loss of life, property and business.
There are many types of emergencies: an overflowing toilet, a power outage, a tornado, an armed intruder. Regardless of the emergency or whether it’s classified as an act of God or man-made, the first few minutes will be critical in determining the outcomes. The role of technology is to improve outcomes for people and property and that includes preventing bad things from happening or facilitating the appropriate response if an emergency does occur. Reducing confusion, panic and communication breakdowns prevents delayed responses that can equate to costly mistakes.
Creating situational awareness about what’s happening, where it’s happening, and what to do about it saves lives and property.
But such knowledge can be difficult to attain when multiple alarm systems are at play, each with its own notification and reporting protocols. Unmonitored systems generally only provide local alerting in the form of buzzers, lamps or annunciation panels. For example, a fire alarm goes off when smoke is detected, but it doesn’t tell you where the fire is or where to find the nearest exits so the campus can be safety evacuated.
The good news is that today’s smarter networks and devices – plus the right software to tie all of them together – makes it easier and more cost-effective than ever to create a safety and security bubble over a single facility, wide-area campus or entire enterprise. In addition to developing emergency preparedness and response plans, technology can be used to integrate all alarm systems and then automate emergency notifications.
Any threat or deviation from normal operations requires that both on- and off-site responders have situational awareness as soon as a triggering event occurs. With a universal alerting engine, triggering events can be harnessed to drive awareness transactions – aka alerts – with specific details about an unfolding situation and how to address it. Therefore, situational awareness is the key to successful emergency communications and response management for any organization.
Is situational awareness complicated? No Is it a challenge? Yes
Any number of life safety, security and environmental alarm systems are at work on any given campus at any given time. Then you have to factor in a combination of voice and data networks not to mention a plethora of communication devices. But thanks to computer-telephony integration (CTI) and robust middleware, every sensor, alarm and communication end point can be unified to ensure that key individuals, select groups or entire populations are able to read, hear and see what’s happening and do the right things in response, based on predefined protocols or modes and actions (i.e., if this, then that).
Instead of a generic nomenclature, detailed alerts, including the nature of the alert plus location data, are delivered according to your business rules – critical information that can improve response in terms of both the right action and the right timing. Facility managers and executive leadership then can generate daily and historical reports to analyze response times and emergency protocols to identify problems and make improvements.
Smart risk management requires both preparation and response.
What’s dangerous on and around your campus? What can you do to respond to a crisis and reduce its impacts? Situational awareness is first a mindset and then a technology framework for creating time – time for you and your staff to prevent and/or respond to a threat. As Brad Spicer of SafePlans rhetorically asks, “When would you rather know an intruder is present – when he’s in the parking lot or at the door?”
Situational awareness is a big concept, but it boils down to preventing loss of life, property, business and convenience. Whatever the trigger – the press of a panic button, a leaking pipe or a malfunctioning HVAC – information about the situation must be conveyed in real time to the people most likely to be affected, as well as those responsible for investigation, containment and remediation. Alarm and communication interoperability takes an organization from reactionary and siloed to proactive and holistic in terms of emergency alerting and response management.