Integrating day-to-day communications with emergency response

During the first few minutes of an emergency, before emergency response teams have arrived, occupants are at their most vulnerable, often unaware an emergency is even happening.

According to the FBI, 70 percent of shootings last less than five minutes, and 60 percent end before first responders can arrive.1 In many scenarios, even when law enforcement was present or able to respond, civilians still had to make life or death decisions in those first few minutes.

To help keep students, faculty and staff safe and informed when seconds count, schools must consider the communication and security systems they currently have and how they are utilized during their response to certain emergencies. Paging and intercom systems form the foundation of most communications efforts in a school building and will naturally play a vital role in an emergency response as well. Schools should invest in an integrated system that not only facilitates day-to-day event management and communications, but also is designed and maintained with emergency response in mind.

The Role of Communications in a Crisis

A comprehensive crisis plan includes a reliable, ease-of-access solution for emergency communication. A solution designed for immediate and automatic emergency announcements, which can be combined with other technologies, should be at the heart of an emergency crisis plan.

Regardless of emergency type, schools can utilize emergency communication solutions to send notifications and instructions as quickly as possible to the entire campus and before first responders arrive. This will allow occupants to activate crisis plan actions as well as communicate to offsite district officials and other parties that need to be informed.

Power of Automation

Automated responses and notifications can save valuable time during a crisis, sending the right message and information to all appropriate contacts instantly. Most school paging systems can be upgraded to broadcast automated notifications and responses throughout the campus. These systems are proven and reliable, and ideal mediums for crisis communication as they are used on a daily basis by staff, do not require daily maintenance (like re-charging) and are difficult to disable or disconnect.

While many schools have installed emergency panic buttons, it is important to map out which functions and other systems the panic button triggers. A list of steps and associated responsibilities should be included in a crisis plan, laying out how best to respond to different situations. Panic buttons within a communications system can be preprogrammed to perform all the appropriate steps, launching an emergency response with a single push. A variety of pre-recorded and automated responses can be triggered via computer, phone or mobile app, including:

  • Building-wide prerecorded audio messages
  • Notification to first responders
  • Message to district office
  • Trigger visual messaging
  • Signal to lock all doors
  • Interface to other security systems

Other Considerations

Newer, IP-based solutions are designed with emergency notification capabilities while offering day-to-day scheduling and event management. Some new systems allow you to augment your existing system to add newer emergency features without immediately replacing working systems.

Look for flexible solutions that are in line with the district’s current technology plan. Systems that are network and software-based, upgradable and standards-based are easily combined with existing infrastructure, allowing for a more seamless adoption.

Likewise, consider how easily the system will be used by staff and faculty, or the level of training required. Leveraging familiar technology that is used daily throughout the school will make it easier to use in the event of an emergency.

Collaborate with systems integrators that specialize in critical communications in schools. We understand the complex communications challenges schools face each day and help institutions manage these complexities by providing specialized communications solutions. Our knowledge of school buildings and district requirements and how they need to communicate both every day and during emergencies ensure our solutions meet the unique needs of each academic institution.

For additional information or a free needs assessment, contact SIGNET Vice President of Engineering Greg Hussey greg.hussey@signetgroup.net. Greg is a security and critical communications expert who has worked for SIGNET for more than 25 years.

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