4 Ways Mass Notification Will Evolve During COVID-19
As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues, more significant changes are to come, including how we use mass notification tools.
The past year has brought a host of changes to how organizations approach campus safety. Mass notification has become a key component of many safety plans, but the needs and expectations mass notification solutions have to meet continue to evolve.a
As the impact of the pandemic continues to linger, more significant safety changes are on the horizon, and mass notification tools will have to follow suit. Here are some of the ways you can expect mass notification to evolve in a post-COVID-19 world.
1. Use Cases Will Continue to Grow
If there is one thing this crisis has taught us, it’s that flexibility is key. Changing expectations, guidelines and outbreaks mean everyone needs to do their part to stay safe. Over the course of the pandemic, organizations have used mass notification systems in a variety of creative ways to meet their needs and keep people informed. From moving to mobile communications to share updates with remote workers to celebrating patients being taken off ventilators in hospital settings, campuses are adapting the way they use mass notifications to assist with these challenging times.
At the same time, the violent threats many campuses were using mass notifications to prepare for aren’t going away. Violent incidents can happen anywhere at any time, so every organization needs to have a way to communicate critical safety information that reaches all of its people.
It’s not just K-12 schools, college campuses and hospitals that need to be concerned about violent threats. Movie theaters, houses of worship, and manufacturing facilities are just some of the organizations that have come under threats in recent years. Mass notification systems need to give any organization the flexibility to prepare for any event that could drastically disrupt regular operations. That means understanding how to alert people for active shooter situations, severe weather, medical emergencies and more. It also means understanding what devices and systems can be used to alert people inside and outside of your facilities to keep them out of harm’s way.
Earthquake and gunshot detection and surveillance camera triggers are just some of the new technologies expanding mass notification ecosystems beyond traditional IP speakers and mobile phones to provide a more powerful and complete safety solution.
Organizations are also becoming more creative in how they are using mass notification to help automate and handle other regular tasks. School bells schedules and other scheduled announcements are one way organizations are already expanding their mass notification. As mass notification solutions and the technology those solutions integrate with become more sophisticated, so will the ways a mass notification system can be deployed. With the right integrations, the possibilities can be truly limitless.
2. More Regulations Recognizing the Importance of Mass Notification
Before the pandemic, more and more organizations were turning to mass notification due to state and federal regulations that are being put in place. Requirements like Kari’s Law, Alyssa’s Law, NFPA 72 Chapter 24 and Ray Baum’s Act forced organizations to cover their bases when it comes to having the right systems in place to alert its people.
In a post-pandemic world, it is likely there will be additional legislation introduced that requires organizations to notify people about health crises. These new laws will likely force organizations to invest in new tools that ensure alerts reach everyone, local health and safety officials are aware of a potential outbreak, and outdoor signals prevent people from entering potentially infected areas.
Organizations can save time and money by anticipating and paying attention to changing regulations. Being proactive in finding and implementing a notification solution can save headaches and money down the road with a tool already in place. It may require expanding the use of a tool already in place or adding a supplementary tool, but that can be much easier and less costly than starting from scratch.
3. Collaboration Tools Will Become Important Endpoints
Tools like Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex Teams make it easy for people to collaborate on projects and are gaining prevalence in modern workplaces. Mass notification has often relied on being able to reach people in the devices and systems they use regularly. These kinds of collaboration tools are quickly rising to prominence alongside email and mobile phones as critical communication tools, so being able to reach people via these systems with safety information will likely grow as a priority for organizations.
Mass notification systems that can deliver messages directly into these systems and offer the ability to trigger mass broadcasts without needing to leave and log into another tool will have a distinct advantage for organizations prioritizing speed and reach for their notifications.
These tools will be helpful not only for notification purposes but also for incident management following an alert. Without ever needing to leave a collaboration tool, organization leaders can gather and begin assessing an emergency situation and deploying a response. For organizations that have large numbers of remote workers, this can be particularly useful for keeping everyone informed on how a situation is unfolding.
4. Connecting Everything Will Become Easier
Solutions have become more specialized, but that can often mean organizations end up managing multiple systems. This can impede their ability to quickly alert everyone during a crisis event as too much time is spent logging in and out of different systems. Even mass notification solutions that try and do it all have become somewhat specialized, with some only providing organizations with a means for mass SMS text messaging, while others can only reach on-premises devices without the necessary mobile component. This can be a costly and inefficient way to address alerting needs.
If the past is prologue, we’ll see integration standards continue to develop. For example, the method by which mass notification systems connect to digital signage platforms has rapidly evolved over the past few years as the industry has coalesced around the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP). What once required custom software engineering is now a relatively easy configuration. We can expect to see the same thing happen with other integrations like access control systems, gunshot detection systems and video surveillance.
Organizations will continue to look for mass notification tools that can help solve as many problems as possible through a single solution. That means solutions will continue to add integrations with devices to provide a valuable and effective notification solution. Mass notification systems will also provide more options for incident management to deploy responses, offer updates, and give an all-clear after an initial message goes out. By managing every message, device, system and group from a single platform, organizations can save money, expand the reach of their emergency messages, and get those messages out more quickly than relying on multiple disparate systems and devices.
No one can say for certain what the future will bring, but safety concerns will never go away. Mass notification solutions will continue to evolve to address new threats and challenges, and organizations should be looking at their needs to understand how they can keep their people safe and informed in a post-COVID world.
Pat Scheckel is Vice President of Product Management at Singlewire Software. Based out of Madison, Wis., Scheckel has more than 20 years of experience in the IT industry, including two decades with unified communications, and has helped numerous organizations implement mass notification solutions to enhance communication and safety.
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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!