An MNEC Perspective on Navy Yard Shooting

An integrator analyzes how an MNEC solution with audio messages can mitigate the impact of mass shootings.

On September 16, 2013, my worst fears came true. A gunman attack on the Navy Yard in Washington D.C. resulted in the deaths of 12 people.

These deaths are due, in part, to the perpetrator pulling a fire alarm prompting people to attempt to evacuate the premises.  As people filed out, the terrorist shot at them.

The connection to mass notification emergency communication (MNEC) systems is that the threat to life is compounded when a fire alarm system is activated. Since the normal response to a fire alarm is to evacuate at the nearest exit, this causes people to possibly head into the active shooting event. A notification system, however, provides information as to what is happening and where to go to be safe.

We’ll never know whether an MNEC solution would have prevented or mitigated this disaster, but I suspect it could have. 

Time to Step Up or Step Out

As a commercial integrator, I feel that our industry needs to step up and play a role in reducing the risk of these tragedies. Regulatory authorities like NFPA have already realized it; now we must accept an obligation to provide technology that allows for threats to life over and above fire.

For over 100 years, organizations like the NFPA have been working to make buildings safe from fire threats. The same can be said of security-focused organizations like ASIS. Yet, we somehow ignore the integration of these two technologies.

NFPA took a major step in seeing the integration of audio and video with fire and life safety in 2010. With the insertion of Chapter 24 in NFPA 72, NFPA made a bold statement that the threats to life are not just fire, but security as well. In that step, the recognition is that we have a responsibility to provide information on the threat, what to do, where to go and when it is safe.

Here’s an interesting perspective from the integrator community as to whether or not they should start to provide mass notification solutions to their customers:

When I witnessed the news coverage of the shootings at the Navy Yard in D.C., I felt that I let my country down. I know that there is technology out there that could have potentially prevented this incident, yet no one brought that technology to the Navy.

Why are we, as integrators, not only embracing this new technology, but promoting it throughout the country?

The hand writing is on the wall in the life safety community. Every building in America is vulnerable to an attack. Society recognizes that threat and is taking steps toward making each and every building safe. A recent article on illustrates that public schools are looking at MNEC as a necessity and funding is being established to allow the public schools to be safe. In 1996, the United States Air Force made the decision that MNEC is a requirement for every air force base.

The proof is all around us, and we as integrators need to step up and meet this need head on.

Integrators reading this, talk to your current customers. Ask them what they think of MNEC. I guarantee that you’ll find a customer concerned with the ability to communicate in an emergency.

After you have that conversation, then I challenge you to decide whether you are ready to help secure and keep people safe – or not?

Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.

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