When an emergency strikes, organizations must be able to quickly disseminate information to employees, business partners, vendors and customers. Alerts need to be carefully coordinated to keep people safe and prevent costly business disruption.
Schools in particular need mass notifications systems to keep people informed during different situations. Weather forecasts allow you to predict certain events, but the resulting snow accumulations, and flooding are often worse than expected and power outages often come without warning. Tragically, the threat of shootings has caused many school districts to revisit their communication strategies.
A mass notification system is the engine that drives school safety, bringing together different communications services into a single platform. This makes it possible for staff, families and first responders to receive the information they need when they need it. Mass notification systems are most important during an emergency, but they can also provide value on a daily basis by simplifying the internal and external sharing of information about various school programs and events.
The first step to developing a mass notification system is determining who needs to receive alerts and what types of alerts each group should receive. Sending everything to everyone can waste resources, affect productivity and create unnecessary panic. For a school district, groups of recipients could include administrators, teachers, office staff, maintenance staff, IT staff, parents, students, law enforcement and emergency personnel. You should also determine who has the authority to make decisions in certain types of situations.
Once you’ve identified groups and types of alerts, you can evaluate and test your mass notification system against those requirements. How quickly is information disseminated? On which channels is information disseminated? How many manual steps are required to send an alert? What is the risk of error? How is the process monitored?
For routine announcements that don’t require immediacy, pre-scheduled emails, text messages, app notifications, social media postings and digital signage messaging are appropriate. Notifications about weather-related school closings, delayed openings, and early dismissals are often automated.
Emergency situations are a different story. For example, certain types of criminal activity could make it impossible to contact an onsite safety officer through regular means, much less use 911. In this case, a discretely placed panic button would enable you to automatically notify the appropriate personnel and urgently request help. Schools could be quickly evacuated and placed on lockdown.
A mass notification system should bring consistency to schools and buildings across your district. Older tools such as speakers intercoms, and bells can be valuable, but legacy tools should be connected to the IP network. Make sure your technology is capable of generating broadcast-quality audio so people can clearly hear notifications and instructions, even in noisy areas like hallways, gymnasiums and cafeterias. Find out about automation capabilities that increase safety and situational awareness without the need for manual activation. Finally, look for a mobile-friendly system that supports two-way messaging to enable real-time communication.
Mitel has partnered with SYN-APPS to create advanced mass notification systems for a number of industry verticals, including K-12 education. These platforms can be integrated with phones, analog paging systems, IP speakers, and hundreds of other tools and services. As a National Platinum Mitel Partner, IPC can help you implement a new communications platform that overcomes the challenges of legacy systems. Let us show you how mass notification by Mitel and SYN-APPS improves safety and streamlines communication.