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CS Survey: Emergency Notification System Deployment Advice

Campus Safety emergency notification survey respondents gave some valuable advice to readers for projects on their campus.

According to Campus Safety’s 2017 Emergency Notification Survey, emergency notification and alert systems continue to be a popular technology purchase for schools, universities and hospitals.

To help readers with the process of deploying new emergency notification systems, CS asked survey participants for some advice for that phase of the security project.

To view all the charts and data from the survey, click here!

Here’s what some of the survey respondents said:

Emergency Staffing, Personnel and Buy In

  • “Adequate and appropriate staffing is vital for deployment, no matter how good the system is.”
  • “Allow staff to use it for a host of reasons … familiarity with the system has served us well.”
  • “Deciding who is responsible for message development and then actually building the messages is critical.”
  • “Get administrators out of the building and operation as much as possible.”
  • “Get buy-in from users and supporters of the system. Don’t do it alone!”
  • “Have a consistent message system, and ensure that all members know what that system is.”
  • “I would recommend that it be made very clear to the administration that any message sent through the system should truly be important and the system should not be overused. You don’t want your recipients to start ignoring messages due to overuse on non-emergency messaging.”

Vendor, Integration and System Selection

  • “Do not rush to find a vendor. Talk to others that are already using systems and have had success.”
  • “Do your research as not all systems are the same and give you what you need. Gather a multi-disciplinary team to evaluate. Spend time up front negotiating price as most companies want your business and are willing to listen within reason. Spend time determining your audience and the information they want vs. what they need.”
  • “Find a system that integrates messaging systems.”
  • “Get a fully integrated system. All our systems are stand- alone and must be activated separately.”
  • “Have more than one type of system and a back-up plan when those systems fail.”
  • “Have one company install everything from the beginning to the end. We have tried to have our internal maintenance department install parts of systems, and vendors install other parts. This failed us because when an issue arose, it was a battle of whose fault and responsibility it was.”
  • “Identify required communication methods that will allow a central system to push notifications through all available channels and ensure that your central system can speak those languages.”
  • “Integrate all forms of communication to your notification management software so that a single message is sent at the same time from one place.”
  • “Find the most user friendly interface for your alert staff to use. Otherwise mistakes will be made during a time of crisis.”
  • “Integrate with social media — Facebook Safety check.”
  • “Make the integrator show you that they can integrate your systems before purchasing.”
  • “Systems are constantly increasing capabilities and options. Once you have bought into a system, your contract may prohibit you from changing or upgrading the capabilities of the system, so bear this in mind with any purchase or agreement.”

Check out the survey participants emergency notification success stories!

Emergency Text Alert System Sign Up

  • “It’s more effective if you automatically enroll the students and allow them the option to opt out. We have a much high- er usage rate than when we allowed them to opt in.”
  • “Pulling phone numbers from the university database can save having to convince students they need to sign up for text alerts, but make sure individuals are able to submit a way to update their contact information that is in the database. We’ve had problems with new students listing a home phone number and not their cellphone, and we end up uploading that number that is on their student account from admissions.”
  • “We have a texting system whereby everybody gets the emergency alerts, but you can opt-in to additional messaging types. We have a lot broader group of people who can issue those (HR, marketing) whereas emergency [messages] are limited to the switchboard operator, safety officer and IT.”
  • “Use promotional tools such as a homegrown cartoon like we use. This really engages the students and helps not only in getting people to sign up for alerts, it also helps teach them about safety, even if it is just a simple message.”

General Emergency Notification Advice

  • “Be sure that this type of deployment throughout your facility is kept up to date at ALL times.”
  • “Get updated contact information.”
  • “Make templates ahead of time. This has helped the officers during time of stress from making errors.”
  • “Don’t start out trying to do too much all at once.”
  • “Know what you want and what is practical for your environment before shopping for a system. This includes who will perform activations, who will craft the message and the pathways that you believe will reach the largest segment of the affected population.”
  • “Simplify the system for end user efficiency (person activating the alert). It will only be successful if the end-user knows how to use the system.”
  • “Sirens should have ability to turn off immediately should on- scene management request they be silenced.”
  • “Train, then train, then drill and then train, then drill.”
  • “We attempted a mass emergency alert test using all the systems during class hours. We found glitches in several of the systems and it caused disruption because we couldn’t turn off the alarms. We now test each system individually.”
  • “We spent two years building a commercial system to function as we wanted and it’s great. But now since it is stand- alone, admin wants to roll into an integrated system to save money. So we start over. Huge waste of time. Make sure you know where you are headed and if integration of software is important, don’t buy standalone.”
  • “Working with IT is paramount.”
  • “Have a well thought our plan, and test, test, test, before full deployment.”
  • “Have simulated practices. Keep a log book of incidents for future references.”
  • “Deployment always takes longer than promised.”

View all of the charts from the emergency notification survey here

 

Eaton

 

About the Author

Contact:

Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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