It is not uncommon for universities, hospitals, and the like to experience emergency notification problems from time to time. Thankfully, there are some rather simple solutions to deal with these challenges. After all, what good is an emergency notification system if it fails to work properly when you need it most?
Challenge #1: Determining When to Issue a Warning: Whether it is from severe weather, suspicious or threatening individuals, etc., when is it appropriate to utilize the emergency notification system to alert the masses? Which situations warrant immediate action and which situations do not? This is the number one challenge faced by emergency notification systems. What actually constitutes and emergency?
“I think some schools are afraid they are going to annoy people with their alerts,” says Dave Tindall, assistant vice president for technology services at Seattle Pacific University. “If you are consistent in your policies and issuing alerts where there is a significant threat, then people are going to learn to appreciate them.”
University of Nebraska Safety Manager John Hauser agrees, saying, “I instruct the dispatchers: ‘When in doubt, call it out’ — depending on the situation.”
The key is to define emergency notification protocol, stating which situations require immediate action and which require further investigation, or even no action.
Challenge #2: Which Alert Methods are Appropriate: For starters, it is important to recognize that not all emergencies warrant use of all emergency notification methods. Universities and hospitals should look at the facts of each incident or situation to determine the methods of emergency notification that should be deployed.
“For example, we had a shooting on campus in January,” Bujak explains. “Most people would say, ‘You sent out a warning, right?’ Well, when we received the call, it was immediately identified as an accident. Police officers were immediately on the scene to verify the incident had occurred, and they had the weapon and the suspect in custody. So the question becomes, ‘Is there an ongoing threat to campus?’ And the answer was ‘No.’ Do I need to send a warning? No. Is there a need to inform the community that something happened? Most definitely. In that case, we did a partial activation where we posted information to our Web sites, Twitter, RSS feeds and more passive modes. This incident happened at 2:30 a.m. We didn’t sound our sirens or send text messages because there was no need to do so.”
Challenge #3: Appropriate Alerts: Remember, most incidents are not going to be properly dealt with using a pre-written emergency notification message.
Challenge #4: Managing the Media: More often than not, the media will break a story before an emergency notification is sent out, making the campus or hospital look slow in responding. But this can be for two reasons:
- Journalists are in the business of breaking news.
- Campuses and hospitals have a responsibility to gather accurate facts before alerting the masses.
“Quite often, frankly, [journalits’] reports are inaccurate or speculative,” says University of Southern California (USC) Department of Public Safety Captain David Carlisle. “We have to be accurate because it could be a life or death situation. That’s going to take some time, but generally speaking, we issue a Trojans Alert as fast as the situation allows us. That could be five minutes, up to 30 minutes, depending on the situation.”
Remember to do what you can, report the facts, and get the information out there as quickly as possible. But if you have any further questions on the Emergency Notification Systems, simply contact ARK Systems at 1-800-995-0189 or click here today.
When you consider how crucial security can be, and when you think of all the options that you’re faced with today, one thing becomes clear. You need a contractor with experience. For assessment, design, installation, testing and service, ARK is the expert across the board.