Are You Leaving Holes in Your School’s Emergency Notification Plan?
Bridging the Communication Gap with Interoperable Technology to Protect Schools
Academic institutions have an obligation to their pupils, faculty, parents, and surrounding communities to provide a safe and secure campus environment, which is why it’s critical to ensure you’re not leaving holes in your school’s emergency notification plan.
Choosing an effective notification method is essential to keep people safe and informed during emergencies but without the proper communication tools and processes in place, schools may be left exposed and at risk to communication gaps and inefficiencies.
Take SMS messaging for example. SMS is an excellent tool to share emergency information, as cell phones are common in homes, schools, and business settings. But even a tool this ubiquitous leaves gaps — batteries die, students and teachers stow their phones during class, and texts may get ignored.
No singular communication source can guarantee 100% deliverability or coverage, which is why it’s important to incorporate multimodal notifications in your emergency plan. But how do you know which systems are most effective and will resonate with your target audience during a crisis?
The key is to use a combination of notification tools such as in-building audio / visual notifications and external alerts. Research on organizational communication showed that emergency notifications were more effective when synchronous and asynchronous communication methods were combined, including SMS and phone calls. Researchers also found that three messages were more effective than one, so the combination of asynchronous (email and text), synchronous (phone), and in-person alerts (in-building notifications) helps increase visibility and situational awareness.
Coordinating these multiple delivery methods — such as overhead announcements, activating strobes and alarms, digital displays, mobile alerts, VoIP calls, mass outbound calls, and other sources — requires either several staff members to manage each system, or implementing a solution that provides interoperability with existing infrastructure to simplify notification management. Several such systems exist, but it can be difficult to choose the right solution that supports your school’s requirements and budget.
Here are some key elements to consider:
- Is the system compatible with existing infrastructure? Unified systems reduce activation time, which can save lives during emergencies. Some vendors support multiple sites and more integrations than others, saving time and resources by providing a simpler way to manage systems from a single interface. View this interoperability infographic to explore the possibilities of unified communication.
- Will the system allow faculty— with appropriate credentials — to send notifications? Even during off hours? Accessibility is important to allow users to rapidly activate alerts during a crisis.
- Can we send notifications to users located on-site and away from campus? Location-based alerts can help mitigate confusion, reduce panic, and allows emergency responders to respond to the situation more efficiently.
- Does the solution future-proof existing investments? You can lengthen the life of your systems by adding a layer of technology, such as notification software, to bring systems together. Look for a vendor with proven interoperability expertise.
- Does the system support automation? Advanced systems provide automation – like scheduling tools and integration to early-warning systems. Look for a vendor that doesn’t nickel and dime you for such essential functionality.
Syn-Apps LLC, has been helping schools create safer environments by closing communication gaps since 2001 with its notification software and hardware solutions. Its Revolution Notification Platform offers an entirely new level of interoperability, usability, and functionality to schools seeking a unified solution for emergency alerting, mass notification, IP paging, and additional communication needs.
Syn-Apps’ safe-school initiative aims to help academic institutions by offering SLED customers a bundled discount on its Revolution software.
With the help of the right technology, schools can be better equipped to respond to incidents more efficiently and effectively. Watch this short video to learn how notification software can help your school.
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Campus Safety magazine is another great resource for public safety, security and emergency management professionals. It covers all aspects of campus safety, including access control, video surveillance, mass notification and security staff practices. Whether you work in K-12, higher ed, a hospital or corporation, Campus Safety magazine is here to help you do your job better!