The Next Generation
When traditional notification is not enough to manage the situation
- By Dave Fraser
- December 16, 2020
Classic emergency mass notification systems (EMNS) focus on
fast and reliable messaging to inform people of dangerous
situations. By employing an EMNS, organizations hope to
mitigate the effects on their communities of everything from
natural disasters to our current pandemic through the provision
of timely and accurate information.
At the same time, however, simply notifying the community of a
dangerous event isn’t always enough. Considering a situation like an
active shooter, organizations not only need to notify those who could
be affected, but also engage potential victims to help move them to
safety, manage the situation to the best of their abilities, and share
intelligence with first responders. Furthermore, an organization may
aspire to prevent an incident from happening in the first place.
The traditional view of notification in an EMNS is no longer
enough: organizations and institutions need to think more broadly
about safety. Three ways organizations can support this line of thinking
Employ AI and other Tech to Prevent Emergencies
In 2017, the most recent year for which complete data is available,
there were 12 gun deaths per 100,000 people in the United States, the
highest rate in more than two decades according to Pew Research.
Not surprisingly, the U.S. gun death rate is much higher than in most
other countries, particularly developed nations, and this has no
doubt accelerated in the past two decades along with the rise of mass
EMNS solutions are especially critical in the event of these active
shooter situations. They are used to giving students, employees,
administrators and authorities details about the incident in an
attempt to keep people safe and put an end to it as quickly as possible.
But what if alerts could be sent as soon as a gun is visible in order to
inform the community before a shot is even fired?
The good news is that scenario is now a possibility. Modern AIpowered
video recognition software has an ability to identify firearms
quickly and accurately and then relay images to administrators so
they can verify that there is indeed a threat. Once validated, they can
begin to inform all of the relevant stakeholders immediately to initiate
safety protocols, with the goal of stopping the perpetrator before
a shot is fired. This ability is invaluable and can play an integral role
in significantly reducing — if not completely eliminating — harm
caused by active shooters.
Use Interactive Communications During Times of Crisis
People today are used to using a variety of communication methods
and technologies, and that expectation should extend to emergency
situations. First and foremost, any communication about a potentially
dangerous event needs to be broadly distributed so that it reaches
as much of the community as possible. Speed and reliability mean
nothing if the message is not received by the community.
To accommodate this, communications should be sent through
multiple channels — text messages, emails, Twitter messages, and so
on — so people can utilize the channel they feel most comfortable
with. An app-only approach often falls foul of the challenge of ensuring
that a high percentage of the community knows about the app
and keeps it installed.
Within a crisis, the key is interactivity in communications. A modern
EMNS allows for a 2-way dialog between the community and the
safety teams, to both help inform the community as well as mine a
rich vein of available information. Yet interactivity in a crisis is not
like one-on-one messaging — an EMNS that receives information
and divides messages and people into groups allows organizations to
communicate in a completely contextual and scalable manner.
Cut Through the Information “Fog of War”
When it comes to fast-moving emergency situations, particularly an
active shooter on the premises, there is inevitably a glut of information
available for people to parse through. This could be any combination
of text messages, phone calls, emails, tweets or other social
posts all meant to inform others about the current situation.
The problem that arises with such a tsunami of information is it
can lead to a growing amount of confusion that quickly devolves the
situation into pure chaos. It’s absolutely vital that people have a trusted
information source, a single point of truth, they can rely on to
receive timely updates and instructions during an undoubtedly fluid
and dangerous situation.
The plain fact is, today’s technology can have a dramatic impact during
critical events. While the bulk of EMNS solutions have made positive
strides toward optimizing their ability to notify their communities, the
reality is that notifying them sometimes is not enough. It’s time for organizations
and institutions to fully embrace technology to not only notify
communities, engage potential victims, and manage dangerous events,
but also prevent critical incidents from taking place altogether.
This article originally appeared in the November December 2020 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.