How Mass Notification Systems Can Help Automate Lockdowns
By connecting IoT devices to a mass notification system, campuses can automatically lock doors and send alerts by pushing the same button.
If a campus decides to initiate a lockdown, it is often due to the extreme nature of the event taking place and the danger it poses to people within an organization. That means time is of the essence, but too often lockdowns can be slow and laborious. The more time that is wasted trying to lock down a campus, the more risk there is for the people inside it.
Whether it’s an active shooter, severe weather, or some other emergency, lockdowns need to be easy to initiate and accomplished quickly. That’s why many campuses leverage a mass notification system to help alert people about lockdowns and automatically trigger door locks.
For many organizations, locking down a building or campus is a multistep process involving various systems and devices. This is often where time is lost as administrators need to log into and out of different systems and check to make sure that every step of their lockdown procedure has been followed.
Connecting everything on the backend to a mass notification system eliminates many of these steps and allows some of them to occur simultaneously. This saves time and helps lock down buildings faster.
When an administrator identifies a situation that requires a lockdown, they can simply trigger an alert with a mass notification system via several different methods. Depending on the system, someone could use a mobile app, physical panic button, keyboard shortcut, or desk phone speed dial to initiate an alert. The goal is to provide several easy-to-access options to trigger the lockdown so someone does not need to be sitting in front of a computer console and logged in to a specific application before an alert is broadcast.
Once the alert is triggered, the mass notification system can send it to a wide range of devices as different message types. This can include audio, text, and images, as well as other visual cues like flashing lights. IP phones, IP speakers, desktop computers, mobile devices, digital signage and more can all be used to communicate that a lockdown is taking place while providing instruction on the appropriate actions to take to stay safe. The more communication methods used, the more likely it is that people see and respond to the information quickly, making for a more effective lockdown.
With easy triggering methods and numerous distribution options, mass notifications help campuses improve the speed at which a lockdown alert goes out and expands the reach of that message. This mitigates risk and keeps everyone safe until the event has been resolved.
At the same time an alert is triggered, electronic door locks can be activated using a mass notification system and the Internet of Things. Locking doors can help keep unwanted intruders out of sensitive areas or prevent someone from leaving a building. This may require digging into the application programming interface (API) of the mass notification system to ensure interoperability, but many solutions make this process simple.
Often, any device that utilizes a contact closure can be activated via mass notification or serve as a trigger to broadcast alerts. The quicker a lockdown is initiated, the quicker a situation can be assessed and a response team can be deployed.
Keep in mind that none of this happens by accident. It requires careful planning to identify what situations require a lockdown, who has the authority to activate one, and what kind of messaging will be used to communicate information across a campus. It also requires education so recipients know what to expect and organization leaders know their roles when a lockdown occurs.
Mass notification systems can make it easy to manage lockdown events by inviting key stakeholders to join virtual collaboration spaces and sending notifications with URLs to video feeds for cameras that are positioned in areas near where the lockdown was initiated. This provides real-time insights so everyone is on the same page and can work towards determining the next steps.
During a lockdown, follow up notifications can be sent to check in on people within your organization. Some mass notification tools offer an option to respond to an alert. Administrators can send out messages with a simple question like “Are you safe?” or “Do you need assistance?” Recipients can respond yes or no, and administrators can deploy response teams to areas where people are still in danger.
When a lockdown ends, a mass notification system can also be used to issue an “all clear.” People need to know when a situation has been resolved, and administrators should make it easy to get that message out to avoid confusion and panic. Selecting a different prebuilt message template can let people know the lockdown has ended and it is safe to resume normal activities.
Campuses face a large number of challenges when it comes to communicating during a crisis. Automating the lockdown procedure with a mass notification system saves time and headaches while helping protect people from potential harm.
Paul Shain is President and CEO of Singlewire Software.
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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!