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Mass Notification Systems Can Save Lives

by David Smith

Do you have your plan in place? Do your systems talk to each other?

Weather- and human-related threats continue to increase in frequency and now are a big part part of our reality. No longer are we just practicing fire drills, which were tough enough to have employees adhere to, but we are now having to alert our employees to many other potential threats. With the continued adoption of the National Fire Protection Agency’s code 72: Fire Alarm and Signaling, Emergency Communication Systems (ECS) not only have become a better business practice but also a requirement.

Whether your state or local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) has adopted the 2010 version or beyond of NFPA 72, you should have a communications plan. Start with evaluating your site. If you have one floor in a building or multiple campuses, focus on reaching 100% of your intended audience with a clear audible message. In an ECS, you will want to look to reach places not traditionally considered such as stair wells, bathrooms and rally points. Next consider how you are reaching those building occupants; are you communicating through audible messages, strobe lights, digital displays or even via social media? Then, look at the messages you would send in the event of a series of threats. Is the message short, crisp, clear and professional? Building occupants need an intelligible message that they can dissect quickly in order to make their way to safety.

Building automation and the Internet-of-Things (IoT) has lost no momentum in our facilities today. In your consideration of systems and devices that are built off of an IP backbone avoid proprietary language and protocols. Open-protocol platforms allow programming between various systems which will create efficiencies. Imagine your access control system talking to your Public Address system immediately notifying building occupants of a threat? Pre-Recorded announcements on a proper system have the ability to text cell phones or appear on digital displays.

There is no disputing the growing importance of effective mass notification systems in the workplace. We have a fundamental obligation to provide a safe and comfortable work environment. From the onset, these systems and plans appear complex and daunting. However, successfully designed systems simplify the approach, establish a baseline to whom and how to communicate and then select devices and systems based on effectiveness and integration costs.

Much is riding on building systems today, and there will be even more so in the future as the IoT and its industrial equivalents work together to make buildings more comfortable and safe for occupants. After all, the ultimate goal of advancing building automation is to produce more reliable, robust systems that can improve and protect lives.