• THE EMERGENCY NOTIFICATION SYSTEM EXPLAINED

  • Ever since human beings mastered fire, we’ve had a way to notify our community of impending danger. Fortunately, we’ve come a long way since smoke signals. From lantern signals to radio broadcast to television, emergency communications have gone through iteration after iteration, but the idea has always remained the same: protect what matters. With modern technology, we can do this better than ever before. Enter the emergency notification system (ENS). In the past decade, emergency notification systems have become increasingly popular as more and more organizations invest in crisis prevention and emergency management tools.

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Omnilert’s Success Program provides you with the knowledge transfer, training, best practices, personalized service, and comprehensive support to help you and your team achieve the best possible outcome during any emergency. The robust training tools and methodologies help you organize and command the people, processes, and technology that comprise your response—and give you detailed guidance on how to optimize your resources.

Combined with simple onboarding, continuous support, access to training resources, and the innovative Performance Success Indicators™ (PSIs), you finally have a comprehensive emergency notification system that you can truly depend on before, during, and after a crisis—so you can minimize the impact, save lives, and protect your assets.

The Need for an Emergency Notification System

Violence has of course always been a threat to human life, but the rise of mass shootings in America really began in the nineties. After the tragedy at Virginia Tech in 2007, campus safety became top of mind. Colleges and corporations alike began to realize there was a need for pre-planning and real-time notification during emergencies. They were right: how authorities respond during crises, and how prepared they are for a specific kind of crisis, have a significant effect on the outcome.

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Likewise, natural disasters have always threatened the wellbeing of communities, but these events are occurring more and more frequently in many parts of the world, and with greater strength than ever before.

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Climate models have illustrated a few likely trends. Greenhouse gasses will elevate the average temperature over most of the globe and will likely increase the intensity of storms. In short, should global temperatures rise, then more vapor will evaporate into the atmosphere—a recipe for storms. The more vapor, the greater the intensity of a storm. Floods, too, are a growing threat as ocean levels rise (2017 was the hottest recorded year for ocean temperatures) and will inevitably affect coastal communities.


No matter how you look at it, there are more occasions warranting emergency notifications than there were ten years ago. Fortunately, as times change, attitudes and technology are keeping pace. We have reached a point where the best of systems can do more than just send an alert that notifies people. With automated technologies, the margin for human error is reduced.

Features of a Life-Saving Emergency Notification System

A superior emergency communications solution will do more than just send out emergency text alerts; it will prepare administrators for every stage of a crisis while engineering as much human error out of the process as possible. Emergency notification systems that use automated technologies to their advantage are best positioned to accomplish this.

The key automated technology feature of Omnilert is Scenarios®, which prepares emergency notification administrators (you) for every step of the process. Whether you’re an enterprise watching out for employees and customers, a medical facility caring for patients, or a university ensuring student safety, the quality of your emergency response dictates the outcome of a crisis. From the planning and coordination to the monitoring and resolution, our uniquely automated system ensures your community has the capacity to respond as quickly and efficiently as possible.

What makes Omnilert and its one-of-a-kind technology so effective? In short, Scenarios are customized sets of preconfigured actions that are set into motion at the touch of a button. In reality, it’s so much more than that. Scenarios, and the suite of crisis communication solutions it belongs to, are meant to prepare you for anything.

Take the example of a school lockdown. If you haven’t prepared in advance through automation, you’ll have to manually alert those in your care. It could plausibly take you ten minutes to signal an alarm for students, email parents and teachers, post to social media, and alert authorities. Shaky from emotion and adrenaline, it might take even longer. With pre-planned Scenarios, emergency response takes second.

A student’s phone vibrates as they receive a push notification. A teacher’s projector switches from the morning lecture to a full-screen desktop alert. A split second later, a parent is reading a pre-scripted email. Posts go up on all social media to warn the surrounding community, and a call to the local police department is initiated. And, because you did the prep work through Scenarios, the messages aren’t a cookie-cutter alert. The message received on a student’s cell phone tells them to shelter in place, while the message received on a teacher’s cell phone provides more detailed instructions on how to secure the room.

That’s a powerful notification system.

As a tier-1 rated ENS by Frost and Sullivan, winner of MobileTrax Mobility award and dedicated partner to thousands of customers (and subsequently, the millions they serve), Omnilert is a leading expert in crisis communication solutions. We believe the features that serve as the backbone of our technology should be present in any ENS product. If you’re in the market for an emergency notification system, here’s what to look for:

Simplicity

Advanced and simple aren’t exclusive of each other. The ideal emergency notification system will harness advanced technology within an easy-to-master user interface.

Hopefully, you’ll never be in a situation that requires you to rely on crisis communications but should that day come, you need a program as streamlined and straightforward as possible, providing for ease of use even under duress.

A tornado warning is just a warning—yet an important one. Most people don’t know what to do when faced with an emergency, or how to differentiate between a tornado warning and a watch, so further instruction is essential. Even if they do know how to respond, that knowledge could very well go out the window in a moment of panic and adrenaline. So, during an emergency of any kind, people will be in need of calm, straightforward direction and that’s best delivered when those in charge of their safety have a streamlined system in place.

Speed

The first minute of a crisis is the single most critical period. It’s a race against the clock, and in order to ensure the best outcome, it's essential to notify people as quickly as possible. A life-saving emergency notification system will have the capacity to notify, mobilize, and communicate throughout a crisis.

First, clear and actionable content must be sent immediately, and in such a way that it can reach people anywhere. Regardless of who you need to protect and where you are located in relation to them, the most effective emergency communication will maximize reach through a holistic, multidimensional approach.

We call it Omnimodal, and it refers to the ability to communicate through a variety of platforms—emails, mobile phones, social media, and so forth. Reaching people through their preferred (and various) lines of communication means they will receive an alert more immediately, keeping them safe and informed. For example, as email and voicemail grow obsolete, most have trended towards SMS (text). Omnilert is constantly evaluating these trends and looking for opportunities to improve emergency communications.

Multiple endpoints and modalities are pursued with all haste. Endpoints can be either personal or mass, and both ought to be utilized in a crisis. Personal notifications are those sent to personal devices in the form of text messages, automated phone calls, emails, desktop alerts or in-app push messages. Mass notifications are those that broadcast to a more public space. For instance, website, social media, public address system, digital signage, televisions, and LED boards.

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This multidimensional approach has long been considered a best practice, but in the past, few implemented it because they believed it was too complicated or difficult. With the rise of device interconnectivity, however, it’s speedier and more viable than ever.

It is also this interconnectedness that makes reaching out to emergency responders much easier. An emergency notification system should have a feature that enables users to contact law enforcement, the fire department, and first responders just as quickly and easily as it enables them to reach out to those in their care. A matter of moments becomes a matter of lives, so the immediacy of emergency response should not be overlooked.

Seamlessness

At an initiatory touch of a button, a series of strategic actions are simultaneously rolled out, both internally and externally. First, an emergency notification is sent to your people. As previously mentioned, it’s crucial that a holistic, Omnimodal approach is taken—every avenue of communication should be pursued in order to ensure the greatest number of people receive timely information regarding an emergency.

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However, it’s worth noting that no technology can have 100% reach. An auditory message assumes that everyone can hear it. A visual message assumes that everyone can view it. If a mass text alert is sent out, there’s no guarantee that each recipient has their phone on them, that their phone is on, or that their phone is audible. SMS (text message) is the most basic way to disseminate information about an emergency, but it has many shortcomings.

For one, it operates on the assumption that everyone has the capability to receive it. If you’re part of a corporate enterprise reaching out to your employees or an administrator at a university reaching out to students, a one-dimensional text message is a somewhat viable approach—although it’s likely that some in your community will be unreachable at any point. For example, employees might be in the middle of a conference or students might be subject to a no-phones policy while in the classroom.

But, if you oversee a public space (for example a strip mall, outdoor venue, or airport) then text messages aren’t viable at all. You would likely need a more public method of broadcasting. In fact, a good mass notification system should be able to integrate seamlessly with third-parties in order to gain wider coverage, as well as minimize the margin for (human) error and other bottlenecks that might impede transmission of messages.

This includes technology like wall-mounted alert beacons with sirens, digital displays or LED digital signage, a retrofitted fire alarm, a loudspeaker system, IP-based television systems, and even other third-party safety and informational mobile apps. Check out the infographic below for an idea of which systems are most often integrated with emergency notification.

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Scalability

If the key to success is the timely and seamless delivery of information, it follows that a system is able to handle massive amounts of communication. No matter what happens, a good emergency notification system has the capacity to accommodate all the contacts and messages in order to resolve a crisis as quickly as possible.

This ensures user safety, no matter their location. Scale is especially an issue when employees are scattered, working across different facilities or remotely. A good mass notification system is not just far-reaching but omni-reaching. In addition to protecting employees on the inside, it may be necessary to quickly inform people on the outside—families, local government officials, and any others in the immediate vicinity.

Organizations ought to be enabled to rapidly disseminate information where they see fit because an information vacuum will always be filled. And, in the event of an emergency, it’s easy for people to take to Twitter, posting misinformation and speculation. A properly scaled emergency notification system will be able to tackle this in conjunction with internal alert processes.

Security

Whether your community is large or small, security is of paramount importance wherever the defense of human life is concerned. In addition to a speedy but secure login, a good emergency notification system protects the contact information of a community and has minimal downtime.

The best way to ensure this is to choose a provider that has a proven track record of success and stability, especially as the industry continues to grow. It’s forecasted that within the next year, the implementation of emergency notification systems is expected to rise to 20% within organizations—from hospitals to companies to higher education campuses. As the industry continues growing exponentially, it becomes more and more important that users choose a reliable provider.

First and foremost, you don’t want to be a budding company’s guinea pig when dealing with crisis communication. Second, an emergency notification system will contain personal contact information from all the members of your community. The security of your data directly affects your community, so be sure to carefully review the terms of your vendor to ascertain that they will never share data without your explicit permission. The entire point of crisis communication, after all, is to protect your people!

When it comes to ensuring the integrity of a system, it’s also important to look for a provider that offers a redundant solution. In other words, the most reliable, secure, and economic solutions are those hosted on a cloud system. For instance, if your power is wiped out by a natural disaster, you obviously won’t be able to send those emergency notifications your community needs.

Hosting on a cloud circumvents this issue entirely. A hosted cloud system also eliminates the time, effort, and expenses you would pour into purchasing and maintaining your hardware and software—software patches, upgrades, regular backups, security audits, spam filtering, virus scanning, software firewall configuration, OS updates, and so forth. Using a managed service with failure resistant infrastructure gives you the peace of mind that the integrity of your data will be maintained.

Support

An ideal emergency notification system provider is responsive to the needs of customers and has knowledgeable staff available for support. In fact, support should be provided every step of the way. When it comes to the setup of your product, a good provider is also a thorough teacher. Even though emergency communication products are simple to master, they may require instruction at the outset. For this, and for any of the more complex implementations, account management and professional support teams need to be available to help users succeed.

A good provider will also offer training for you and your people. Emergency communication saves lives, but it’s most effective when incorporated into a suite of critical communication solutions. That means the optimal provider will offer further instruction in emergency preparedness and emergency management. The importance of pre-planning for emergencies cannot be overstated. Part of that pre-planning stage involves learning how to leverage the skills and talent of your team because it’s crucial to have the right people involved when it comes to critical communication.

To ensure the best outcome in an emergency, guidelines have to be established in order to determine exactly what needs to happen in case of an emergency, as well as have individual roles of your emergency response team clearly defined. Having this in place ensures stakeholders (those in your care and anyone who might be affected by the situation) are supported during a crisis.

In addition to regular consulting, a provider should also be there for you after a crisis. There’s always something to be learned from a crisis, and often you can learn what went well and what didn’t from members within the community. The right provider can help you analyze the data collected through the system in order to determine how to better refine an emergency response.

In Summary

When choosing a provider, look for key characteristics in the technology they offer: simplicity of the interface; speed of both integrated systems and automated, outbound messages; seamlessness of omnimodal messages and integration of third-party technologies; scalability of the system to encompass all members of your community; the security of a reliable cloud service provider; and the kind of customer care that transcends perfunctory support through genuine empathy.

A lot can go wrong in a crisis. Your emergency management will be most effective if it includes a way to provide procedures to an emergency response team, as well as provide guidance to recipients of outbound alerts. Choose a provider that puts the “system” in emergency notification systems—because notifications aren’t enough. Having access to a full suite of critical communication solutions gives you the best chance of protecting the people in your care, whoever they are and wherever you happen to be.

What an Emergency Notification System Can Do for You

Emergencies can happen anywhere, at any time. Whether you’re a part of a corporate enterprise or a college campus, timely information and instruction can be the difference between life and death. It’s of paramount importance to prepare for situations that we hope will never occur. Here are just some of the scenarios an emergency notification system can respond to:

Disaster and Weather Warnings

With the rise in natural disasters this past decade, inclement weather is a driving force behind the growth of crisis solutions. As an administrator, it’s not just general duty that calls for you to adopt best practices—there may also be legal and regulatory requirements that a facility is required to comply with. An emergency notification system is a crucial part of a complete defense against any conceivable natural disaster:

  • Hurricane Responses
  • Earthquake Responses
  • Hazardous Driving Warnings
  • Tornado Warnings
  • Fire Emergencies and Drills
  • Winter Weather Closures
  • Lightning Warnings

Security Threats

Whether you oversee a movie theatre, a campus, or a workplace, injury and loss of life are to be avoided at all costs. By preconfiguring actions, issuing notifications, and providing instructions on how to respond, you’re positioned for the best possible outcome. Administrators can’t predict violence, but they can minimize the impact of:

  • Intruders
  • Bomb Threats
  • Workplace Violence
  • Active Shooter Incidents

Technical

Not all alerts are a matter of life and death. Sometimes, it’s only a power outage or technical failure that needs to be addressed. By automating notifications for these instances, you can minimize the impact on normal operations by alerting a community to the issue and working toward a solution as quickly as possible. These emergencies might include:

  • Email Outages
  • IT Outages
  • HVAC Issues

Whether you are a part of a campus, corporate workplace, hospital, government facility, or manufacturing company, a strong emergency notification system can help you handle a crisis no matter your objectives.

The Emergency Notification System That’s Proven

Omnilert is a company borne out of compassion and founded on the basis that no one should die because of a lack of timely information. We’re the same team that pioneered e2Campus back in 2003. The program was first launched at Arundel Community College, marking it as the first campus in the U.S. to implement a mass notification system. Since then, we’ve continued refining our work in order to continue on a mission of protecting human life through innovative technologies.

Pair Omnilert technology with our Success Program and you have a complete crisis solution. Through training, customized service and full support, Omnilert fully prepares administrators for the Crisis Communications Cycle—that is to say, for every stage of a crisis. While Scenarios is meant to prepare users for the during stage of an emergency, there are important steps to be taken before and after.

Customers learn how to assemble a team of the right people, define actions and endpoints, and engage in ongoing training and testing. They’re also taught how to deal with the aftermath of a crisis by learning how to identify critical data, determine areas for improvement, and assess the actual performance metrics. Of course, Omnilert is there every step of the way with ongoing consulting and continual optimization.

The safety and success of your people are of utmost importance to you. That’s why you’re reading. Likewise, when Omnilert is your ENS provider, we consider you our people.

Some of our current people:

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