Selecting an Emergency Mass Notification System

Selecting an Emergency Mass Notification System
Critical Considerations in Selecting an
Emergency Mass Notification System
Emergency mass notification system needs vary across organizations. As a result, the selection
criteria can change drastically depending on the size and location of a school district, college or
university.
Despite the different challenges and solutions, there are a number of important factors that all
educational institutions should keep in mind when selecting an emergency mass notification system.
Integration
Whether you already have an emergency notification system in place and are looking to expand or are
considering longer-term future additions, considering the system’s ability to integrate is essential.
If your institution already has one or more products or systems in place, it’s crucial that the new system
work well with those components, not only for cost effectiveness but to ensure a cohesive system overall.
Even if you’re looking to implement a system for the first time, think long term. Your organization will
more than likely expand the system at some point, whether it’s with the same vendor or not.
The ability to integrate systems increases its effectiveness and extends its useable lifespan.
Notification Coverage (Multi-path Redundancy)
Mass notification systems can range from simple to elaborate, and it’s easy to fixate on specific services
or products when reviewing the different offerings.
Keep the big picture in mind, and always come back to your end goal. What are you looking to achieve
with your emergency mass notification system?
In many cases the answer is comprehensive notification coverage.
Comprehensive notification coverage generally requires a variety of alerting methods to overcome
obstacles that may prevent students, faculty, staff, or visitors from receiving an emergency alert. Where
are students located when the emergency occurs? Do they have access to a computer or mobile device
(and is it powered on)? Are they in an area where they can see or hear the alert? All of these are potential
obstacles that can prevent your campus community from receiving an emergency alert.
The answer is to adopt a system that provides multiple communication channels for sending and
receiving an emergency alert as quickly and as easily possible. Every Second Counts!
White Paper – Choosing the Right Emergency Notification System
Global CTI • © September 2015
Selecting an Emergency Mass Notification System
Alerting and Notifying
Ensuring that individuals are alerted to the fact that there is an emergency is important, but how do you
go about providing specific information and instructions to students, faculty, staff, and visitors across
multiple facilities?
Sounding a warning tone gets people’s attention, but it does not convey information about the emergency
at hand. Consider an emergency notification system that does both—sounds emergency tones/visible
strobes and displays or speaks an emergency message that notifies individuals of the emergency and
appropriate steps to ensure safety.
Code Compliance
Finally, be mindful of important mass notification codes and mandates when selecting an emergency
notification system:
 The Americans with Disabilities Act specifies that emergency preparedness and response programs be
accessible to people with disabilities, including emergency mass notification and access to information.
 The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) reauthorizes the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA)
and mandates under federal statutes that universities and colleges issue emergency warnings. The
HEOA further establishes requirements for timely warning and emergency notification.
 In addition to its core focus on fire alarm systems, the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code (NFPA
72) includes requirements for mass notification systems. Specifically highlighted in Chapter 24 with
respect to mass notification the Code States:
24.4.3.16.1 Where audible notification is provided, mass notification systems shall also provide
visible notification information to serve the hearing impaired and for high-noise areas.
24.4.3.16.4 Transmission of visible notification and messages shall be simultaneous to audible
notification and messages.
24.4.5.1* Overview. Distributed recipient mass notification system (DRMNS) alerting shall not be
used in lieu of required audible and visible alerting mass notification systems but shall be
integrated with mass notification systems whenever possible.
Some Other Compliance:
 Executive Order 13407 specifically mandates that public alert and warning systems serve those with
disabilities.
 Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act
 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CCVAA).
Global CTI is a regional provider of communication solutions, serving organizations throughout California. With specializations in IP Telephony,
Unified Communications, Call Centers, Video, Networking, Virtualization, Managed Services, and Emergency Notification. For more information
on how Global CTI can help your organization with its communication needs, please call 1-800-366-1711.
White Paper – Choosing the Right Emergency Notification System
Global CTI • © September 2015
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