What Every Mass Notification System Needs

This blog chronicles Nova Scotia Community College’s search for their mass notification system and includes a link to a mass notification webinar. 

During campus wide renovations, Bill Strubank, the Manager of Occupational Health, Safety and Environmental Service at Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC), and his team reviewed their safety and security infrastructure. This review revealed a pressing need for a mass notification system largely stemming from the team’s concern about how to handle a mass shooter event and initiate a lockdown.  Since Bill oversees 13 campuses and multiple learning centers he had to replicate the processes 13 times with a system that was both cost effective and able to address the geographical challenges of a sprawling campus.  When thinking about an active shooter event he knew that historically these types of incidents develop swiftly and normally conclude in under ten minutes.  One of the issues Bill wanted to avoid was having a complicated bureaucracy that would encumber the mass notification system.  “Someone had to figure out ‘oh there is a threat. Ok. How bad is it?  Oh, we should call somebody. Ok we call that person we should probably tell the rest of the building or rest of the campus? Ok. Who has the words for that? Who is allowed to send that message out?’ And really by the time all that bureaucracy was closed up, you are realistically looking at about a half hour for a well-oiled machine. And for me that was simply too long.” 

The mass notification system must be simple to operate.

As NSCC’s search for a mass notification system demonstrated an effective system must be simple to operate, automated, and dependable.  Emergency situations require quick, decisive action therefore mass notification systems must be programed before an emergency or crisis situation arises. NSCC has color coded pull stations on campus for students or staff to quickly initiate lockdown, fire, or emergency alarms.  The signage clearly communicates to students and staff what each pull station is for. Having a well communicated plan and a direct process enables everyone to participate in keeping a campus safe and secure. 

Alerts are sent automatically.

Automation permits processes to flow more smoothly.  At Status Solutions our mass notification system, the Situational Awareness and Response Assistant (SARA), allows for the creation of follow-up actions for each triggering event an organization deems important. Notifications and escalations are pre-programed so the process follows the designated plan. Automating notifications removes the threat of human error and the possibility for break downs within the emergency plan.  At NSCC an activated emergency pull station sends alerts simultaneously via email, dashboard, PC notification and two-way radio to the correct recipients.

Increase dependability with redundancy.

In addition to automation of alerts there also needs to be redundancy. To avert failures or break downs in alerts it is crucial to send notifications with multiple methods. When a campus lockdown is initiated at NSCC messages are sent through the public address system, email, PC notification, wall boards and strobes, dashboards and two-way radios to different groups with information that pertains to them. If the students aren’t at a campus computer to receive the PC notification or receive the email about the lockdown they will hear the public address page or see the wall board or strobe.  Multiple alerting methods prevent breakdowns in communication and ensure that the recipients can respond quickly and efficiently.  

After an exhaustive search of the available systems on the market, Bill and NSCC chose Status Solutions and our SARA system.  At Status Solutions we understand and appreciate the incredible responsibility of protecting the safety and security of others.  Having a mass notification system that is simple to operate, automated, and that provides redundant alerting is a critical component in meeting this challenge. 

Status Solutions recently hosted a webinar with Bill Strubank on mass notification. Click here to watch Incorporating Mass Notification into Your Situational Awareness Strategy.

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