Centralized Monitoring: Your Key End-to-End Situational Awareness

Today’s smarter networks and devices – plus the right software to tie all of them together – make it easier and more cost-effective to create a protective bubble over a campus, as well as improve emergency communications and response.

There are many types of emergencies: an overflowing toilet, a power outage, a tornado, an armed intruder. Regardless of the emergency or whether it’s classified as an act of God or man-made, the first few minutes are critical in determining the outcomes. The role of technology is to improve outcomes for people and property, and that includes preventing bad things from happening or facilitating the appropriate response if an emergency does occur. Reducing confusion, panic and communication breakdowns prevents delayed responses that can result in costly mistakes.

Creating awareness about what’s happening, where it’s happening and what to do about it saves lives and property. Such knowledge, however, can be difficult to attain when multiple alarm systems are at play, each with its own notification and reporting protocols. Unmonitored systems generally only provide local alerting in the form of buzzers, lamps or annunciation panels. For example, a fire alarm goes off when smoke is detected, but often it doesn’t tell you where the fire is located or where to find the nearest exits so the campus can be safely evacuated.

The good news is that today’s smarter networks and devices – plus the right software to tie all of them together – make it easier and more cost-effective than ever to create a safety and security bubble over a single facility, wide-area campus or an entire enterprise. In addition to developing emergency preparedness and response plans, campuses can use technology to integrate all of their alarm systems and then automate emergency notifications for complete situational awareness.

Where to Start?
Smart risk management requires both preparation and response. What are the vulnerabilities on and around your campus? What can you do to respond to a crisis and reduce its impacts? Situational awareness is first a mindset and then a technology framework for creating time – time for you and your staff to prevent and/or respond to a threat. As Brad Spicer of SafePlans rhetorically asks, “When would you rather know an intruder is present – when he’s in the parking lot or at the door?”

Duress alerting is often the first step an organization takes when implementing situational awareness. Every bank in America is equipped with panic buttons, but, unfortunately, not every school. Fortunately, it’s easy and cost-effective to deploy both fixed and mobile duress systems. These enable help to be summoned quickly -whether that’s because a student is having an allergic reaction, a theft is being attempted, a residence hall door is ajar or a nurse in an emergency department needs assistance with a patient who is acting out.

RELATED: The Systems Integration Process: Avoiding Pitfalls and Improving Security

Wide-area mobile duress uses cellular-based help buttons with GPS tracking to enhance safety and security in large, outdoor areas or remote locations. Think about the applications for school bus drivers, teachers on field trips or in experiential learning environments, and any employee who needs to be mobile and remote on the job. When a user activates the cellular duress button for any reason, alerts automatically go to predefined emergency contacts. Automatic hands-free, two-way talk lets a hurt/incapacitated user talk to predefined emergency contact/responder(s), providing additional details about the situation to further ensure an appropriate and speedy response. Responders also can tell the user that help is en route and/or provide instructions.

More good news here: the same smart networks, devices and software that support fixed and mobile duress solutions also make it possible to integrate every existing life safety, security and environmental system and easily add new sensors within a single school or multi-facility campus. Random alarms from these disparate systems then can be converted into detailed alerts for delivery to the right people on the right devices so they can address an unfolding situation in the right way. Access control systems, fire panels, water sensors and cigarette busters in restrooms, temperature monitors in cafeteria and medical-grade refrigerators, motion detectors at eye-wash stations in science and medical labs – each standalone system can be integrated with a single yet powerful situational awareness and response engine.

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