When there’s a threat to your school, one of your top priorities is to notify authorities and communicate to students and staff how to stay safe. Every second counts, every communication must be fast and accurate, and every system must perform.
Emergency communication platforms provide the foundation upon which your safety protocols are carried out. Through monitors, displays and mobile devices across your campus, plus audible alerts and alarms, you have a fast and customizable method for deploying emergency notifications and follow-up communications in a crisis. And just as safety and emergency best practices are evolving for schools, so too is the technology to distribute that information.
Let’s take a look at how the latest capabilities in emergency communication platforms help you communicate more quickly and clearly.
Timing Is Critical
When there’s an emergency or threat of any scale, communication needs to be automatic and human intervention should be minimal. The goal is to get accurate, actionable information to those who need it. When considering emergency communication platforms, make sure you have a clear understanding of how, when and by whom communication is disseminated.
An emergency communication platform cannot and should not stand alone. When integrated with your other systems – fire, lockout, etc. – your platform has direct physical access to your alarms, which triggers a completely automated response. This means that when a fire alarm is pulled in Building A, your platform can deploy automatic evacuation messages throughout that building.
This includes voice instructions and visual notifications that supplement audio alerts and are particularly important in loud areas such as a gymnasium or band room where alarms may be hard to hear. With a supplemental communication platform that triggers audio and visual alerts, plus notifications to authorities, you have a more robust system for emergency communications and don’t have to rely solely on staff to remember complex protocols during a crisis.
The Flexibility to Adapt
No school has the same procedures for emergency situations, so a communication platform must be flexible to the practices you’ve chosen to implement. You may want to customize messages based on a location or group, or choose automatic messages in certain situations (such as a fire alarm) but not in others (such as a weather warning). With the advances in integration technology discussed above, you have greater power to customize your messages based on the layout of particular buildings or an area of campus so that individuals receive the most useful, specific instructions.
The most robust platforms on the market will be able to adapt to the communications around your procedures, not make you change your protocols to fit the technology. Weigh the ability to customize messages, create automatic alerts to speed up response times, and the user-friendliness of the technology. In the event of an emergency, nothing should be more complex than the tap of a button.
A Communications Platform for Daily Use
Some emergency communication platforms are specific to emergency scenarios only, while others can function as additional systems for daily use. This could include the delivery of school news, a display of announcements, the current time or the day’s schedule, and other messages. A platform that serves routine purposes will be more intuitive and effective for your staff during an emergency because they will already be familiar with it. Plus, you get more out of your investment with a system that’s relevant to the everyday operations of your school, not just when there’s a crisis.
Communications platforms are key support tools in a crisis, and they’ve evolved to also support routine daily communications. Examine your options closely, understand how they help speed response times, and choose a system that’s flexible to your daily and emergency needs.
Chuck Olson is vice president of sales for American Time, www.american-time.com. From timekeeping systems for the largest corporations in the world to a presence in half of the K-12 districts in the U.S., American Time is a recognized leader in the manufacturing of integrated, custom timekeeping and notification systems.