For instance, if the intention is to protect a classroom full of students from inclement weather, every possible avenue of communication would need to be pursued to ensure the necessary information reached them. Texts might be sent to their phone, but they are more likely to see the notification that appears on the teacher's desktop as the afternoon lecture is projected onto a screen. The notification flashes across TV screens in lobbies. Simultaneously, an email reaches out to parents letting them know the situation is being handled, or when and where they can pick up their children. Not only does this increase the success of notification delivery, but it also leaves no doubt as to whether or not the alert is a drill.
Interoperability: Putting the “System” in Mass Notification System
When analyzing the outcomes of crises, it has been discovered that even those who did receive an alert did not know how to respond. A notification warning you about an active shooter does not tell you that it is best to shelter in place, lock doors and windows, and wait for further instructions. It also doesn't inform authorities (i.e., police, first responders, firefighters) or offer a centralized mode of unified command for decision makers.
To truly be effective in a crisis, a mass notification system needs to be exactly that - a system. In addition to being multimodal, an interoperable system will also have the capacity to connect with third-party technology like sirens, wall-mounted alert beacons, displays on plasma TVs, LED signage, a loudspeaker system, IP-based television systems, and even other safety and informational mobile apps. This ability to interconnect means that no avenue of communication is left unpursued. Every possible lead is expended, meaning the maximum number of recipients are reached, and a community is as prepared as it can be.
An efficient mass notification system can do it all automatically.
A Provider that Cares and Prepares
Deciding on an MNS provider is no small decision. When lives are on the line, you want to be sure that your trust is well-placed. They should feel like an ally in the way that they prepare you for every stage of a crisis. Omnilert is a company grounded in compassion, and our full suite of crisis communications is designed to equip teams for every stage of an emergency.
When we think of an emergency, we think of those few intense moments where human life hangs in the balance. However, a complete emergency response takes into account pre- and post-crisis periods.
As previously mentioned, preparation is key to averting and handling crises. For mass notification systems to efficiently function, some preconfiguring and planning has to be tackled. First, a team must be assembled. Who will be tasked with disaster response? Your emergency response team will likely include those from the authoritative level of your organization.
For instance, a business might include a number of employees from Human Resources as well as the executive level. A school most obviously would opt for campus safety officers but might also include members of student affairs. Carefully consider what personalities will do best under pressure; it is not always wise to hand the responsibility of crisis management to the person with the most authority. This is the time to ask yourself questions like “who is likely to be reliable in a crisis? Who has the steadiness to make quick decisions with the community’s well-being in mind?”
Once you have a practical and level-headed team assembled, possible threats must be assessed—everything from gas leaks to violent intruders. It is important to consider what scenarios warrant the use of mass notification systems. This is also the time to consider at what point during an emergency scenario you will need to reach out to law enforcement and first responders. The pre-crisis stage involves a lot of asking and answering questions. At what point in a given crisis should outside help be contacted? How will the message be dispersed, and who is authorized to do so? What will the message say?
It is well worth putting extra time and effort into these considerations because it determines the success of your emergency response. Should an emergency ever arise, you have already gone through the mental exercise of playing out similar circumstances and as a result, have all the pieces in place. You have more than a head start. You have certainty that you have done everything you can to ensure the best possible outcome.
The first minute of a crisis is the most important. It is a race against the clock as your preconfigured plans commence. A multimodal approach provides the most comprehensive reach, and the pre-scripted actions provide necessary emergency information, which can be followed with more detailed notifications, both mass and personal.
It may also be necessary to mobilize external resources such as law enforcement, firefighters, first responders or even a HAZMAT team. Using a mass notification system that can integrate with external parties and speed the process of summoning help can make a significant difference when every second counts.
It is critical to communicate throughout the emergency with your response team, as well as members of the community. Having a reservationless telephone conference and a web conferencing meeting that can be initiated instantly allows for convenient and streamlined communication for decision makers. Instant, unified command enables decision makers to share live video feed, maps, and any data needed to make informed decisions.
It is very important to be able to tap into the thoughts and insights of the community, which may be able to provide ground-level information. This can be accomplished through inbound text messages and social media. Depending on the circumstances, it may also be necessary to keep the public informed with updates so that misinformation is not disseminated by individuals. A mass notification system that enables multiple modes of communication—two-way communication between the community and emergency response team, updates to social media, and secure web conferencing—gives users a distinct advantage during an emergency situation.
After an incident is settled, it is essential to review and analyze what transpired. Omnilert’s Success Program (link: Success Program) teaches your team how to identify critical data points and how to deconstruct any experiences, reports, or even social media feedback that resulted from the incident. Post-crisis analysis is a learning experience that can reveal where a plan succeeded, as well as where it might need improvement. Even though the most well-thought-out scenario still won't fit a crisis perfectly, it is important to amend and revise as needed so that a plan can mold most efficiently to the situation.
When considering a mass notification system, opt for a provider that does more than selling you tools. In addition to integrable features, a full suite of critical communication solutions ought to include both a preparatory stage and a post-crisis stage so that users have an expert grasp on the platform and its functions. Why? Because that gives you the best chance of protecting the people in your care, whomever they are and wherever you happen to be.