A variety of emergencies can occur within a workplace, such as natural disasters, fires, bomb threats—even active shooter scenarios. Because of the rising incidence of violent attacks throughout a wide range of industries, mass notification/emergency communications (MNEC) systems are becoming essential components of an electronic security system. However, the biggest challenge with these systems is effectively reaching all occupants in all areas with the appropriate message in times of emergency. In order to achieve the highest level of success, workplace facilities should address notification delivery to four separate layers in order for MNEC systems to be fully effective.
Layer 1: Intrusive alert (Interior)
This method of notification alert is immediate and hard to ignore, giving it the ability to reach a broad audience. This category of alert delivers the universally understood message that there has been an emergency and the premises should be evacuated. Speakers or horns that produce a loud repeating beep accomplish this in a very basic sense; however, if specific instructions other than “evacuate” need to be conveyed, establishing a voice system is an added benefit. Additionally, visual signals such as color-coded strobe lights and LED-enabled digital signs can be used to clarify any emergency communications and cater to individuals with hearing disabilities. This layer primarily focuses on disseminating communication throughout the interior of a building.
Layer 2: Intrusive alert (Exterior)
This is the same method of notification as the first layer, requiring the alert be broadcast to occupants on the exterior of a building, if applicable.
Layer 3: Personal alert
The past decade has seen a growth in the prevalence of personal alerts thanks to the advances in IP/network and cellular technology. This category enables the communications system to notify occupants or employees in a more intimate approach by pushing the emergency message to PCs and mobile devices as computer pop-ups, automated phone calls, emails, or SMS text messages.
Layer 4: Public alert
Public alerts typically consist of interfaces to broadcast prerecorded messages over radio waves for law enforcement or government officials. They can also be used as a means of warning the local community to seek shelter if the organization is confronted with an active shooter situation.
Just as each organization with one or multiple facilities has specific security needs, a mass notification/emergency communications (MNEC) system may not need to have each type of alert enabled; for some organizations, the first layer may suffice. However, it is recommended that the first layer should be combined with one or more layers so that there is redundancy in the system, protecting delivery of the message against unseen problems if one aspect of the emergency communications system were to fail.