By Paul Shain
Mass notification systems to help achieve the speed and reach they need to ensure everyone receives a message as quickly as possible. Mass notification systems offer several benefits that can help schools enhance safety and communication. It all starts by understanding the types of situations a school is likely to encounter and the obstacles that school may face in relaying messages.
With the ability to prebuild message templates and groups, mass notification systems allow schools to plan for any kind of situation they may face, so when an emergency occurs, every component of their safety plan is at their fingertips to deploy. This happens by utilizing tools many schools already have in place.
Desk phone, IP speakers, desktop computers, overhead paging systems, digital signage, and mobile devices can all be connected to a mass notification system without additional investment. This adds value to existing technology by leveraging it for safety, and eliminates silos that can slow down an emergency response plan. Messages can be delivered to all these devices from a mass notification system as text and audio. The more methods and devices a school uses, the more likely it is that everyone receives a message. While many schools rely on mobile-only solutions to deliver critical messages, this route can have several drawbacks.
Using only mass SMS text messages or emails during an emergency can leave many people unaware that an event is taking place. This is due to the fact that many people keep their cell phones on silent or have them put away during instruction time. This puts the onus of reading a message on the recipient and can cause costly delays when trying to get the word out. That’s why coupling mobile alerting methods with intrusive on-site notifications can help ensure no one misses a message.
Using live or recorded audio broadcast to speakers throughout a school interrupts ongoing activities to grab people’s attention so they know an emergency is taking place. It also helps penetrate areas that may have hard time receiving text messages, like basements or older buildings. Consistent messaging can be sent across every communication channel, minimizing confusion, and highlighting the urgency of the event taking place so people being taking action quickly.
When everyone has received a message, then it’s time to begin actively managing a situation, and mass notification systems can help here, as well. Many systems are adding critical event management capabilities to their offerings to help schools take control of events from start to finish. This is partly done by through the designation of groups.
While emergency situations may require a school-wide broadcast, separate messages may need to be sent to a school’s response team with instructions detailing the tasks they are expected to perform during the event. These messages can include invitations to join virtual collaboration spaces so schools can quickly gather key stakeholders who can best assess and address the situation taking place.
And mass notifications can be used for more than just emergencies. Many schools are suing them to handle daily tasks, like scheduling school bells and playing prerecorded announcements. With the ability to connect to the internet of things, mass notification systems can even be used to schedule the times lights turn on or off and automate electronic door locks for particular times of day.
By leveraging every available communication channel and preplanning for potential events, schools can automate processes, increasing the speed at which they respond to an emergency and extending the reach of their messages so that no matter where someone is or what they are doing, they never get left behind when it matters most.
Paul Shain is the president and CEO of Singlewire Software, developers of InformaCast, and has helped schools across the country enhance safety and communication by implementing effective mass notification solutions, www.singlewire.com.