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June 22, 2011 -
This is Casey Laughman, managing editor of Building Operating Management magazine. Today's tip is to understand that the emergency notification systems of the past may not be sufficient for your needs.
Emergency notification systems simply must work. When they don't, the results can be dire. To avoid unpleasant surprises, choose an emergency notification system that can cover as many different scenarios as possible.
To ensure success, messages have to be timely and intelligible. The systems need to be robust enough to work even during catastrophic events.
Today's approach to emergency planning recognizes that different situations call for different responses. But industry experts say that a uniform consensus over defining emergency notification hasn’t been reached yet. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards on which code might be based are still in development. Meanwhile, rapidly changing Internet Protocol (IP) communications are paving the way for new technologies.
Though the technology is still evolving, there are three general areas of development for emergency notification systems. They include Web-based telecommunications; public address systems that grew out of the military’s "Giant Voice" program; and life-safety system circuitry based on NFPA standards.
The equipment used to communicate messages for these systems varies. Ethernet, wireless and cellular technologies, along with dedicated cabling systems and fiber optics, are among the options.
From there, emergency notification systems expand to offer many solutions: Strobe and siren systems and call boxes are still available, but today there are also smoke and heat sensors that trip emergency notification warnings, email dialers, Short Messaging System (SMS) dialers, LCD display screens, and many more.
What works best for any given organization depends on the systems already in place. With IP networks, organizations can often piggyback emergency notification systems on existing IP networks, which can reduce costs.