Rethink Mass Notification

Properly dealing with emergencies demands integration of plant systems.

By Joe Wilson, Federal Signal

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7. Stay focused on user-friendly technologies. The human element of mass notification is critical for ensuring quick and instinctive emergency response. However, its value substantially diminishes when operators and employees aren't properly trained in how and when to use the system to activate the appropriate warnings and notifications for prescribed scenarios. Make certain operators and administrators are trained across departments to ensure necessary coverage 24/7.

8. Make interoperable communications part of a "total solution." IP-based software-centric interoperable communications represent the gateway to intelligent mass notification by supporting real-time communications and urgent notification of multiple parties using multiple devices, networks and frequencies. This enables seamless multi-media communications with first responders, local authorities and citizens, as well as augmented incident response and emergency preparedness.

9. Map incident planning and execution chain of events. Use scenario management systems to enable incident events, related tasks, emergency procedures and command-and-control confirmations to be configured in step-by-step chains via graphical process maps. In the event of an explosion or toxic leak, multiple emergency steps then can be initiated with the touch of a single button to enable everyone to be notified regardless of location.

10. Achieve additional return on investment. Mass notification systems can be valuable assets for everyday non-emergency intra- and inter-plant communications (e.g., public address and intercom systems), enabling key personnel to become more familiar and comfortable with system capabilities. Encourage designated plant personnel to use tools to become more connected and integrated with plant floor operations or other priority business areas.

Joe Wilson is vice president/general manager of the Industrial and Commercial Systems Group of Federal Signal, University Park, Ill. E-mail him at

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