Another way that mass notification systems require solid planning is in the flexibility of message delivery, or the "layers" available, says Roux. While a fire alarm usually revolves around a siren, a bell or strobe lights, a mass notification system has a multitude of ways to deliver its message — everything from speakers to text messages to robocalls.
For example, in a building that has monitors hanging in a lot of areas — such as flight information at an airport or menus at a company cafeteria — the mass notification system could override those monitors to display emergency information. "That would be a layer," says Roux. "If we had a large grocery store, we could override the cash register screens."
Other methods are based on the audience. On a college campus, many occupants — students, teachers and staff — will be there every day, so a text messaging system might work well. "If we have a high-rise office building where the occupants may not be the same people every day, something like a text message might not be the best thing," says Jelenewicz. "So, maybe having message boards in the hallways would work better for that type of facility."
On a four-building campus, there could very well be eight methods of communication due to the differences in how people in different job classifications do their work, how visitors to the facility can and should be informed, and what can work in each area.
While the new standard adds certain levels of challenges compared to a relatively straightforward fire alarm system, the standard also aims to offer options that allow facility managers to make the most efficient choices possible for their facilities.
"Things like Khobar Towers, Virginia Tech, other terrorist incidents, really changed the game," Jelenewicz says. "Now, we focus on all different kinds of threats. Because each one's unique, there's not any sort of standard cookbook approach to this."
Instead, the standard focuses on performance. What's important is the end result, not how it was achieved.
Learn more about NFPA 72 and its mass notification standard at bit.ly/pSR8G
Key Steps to Planning Mass Notification System
Knowing Facility's Risks Offers Big Rewards When Planning Mass Notification System
Mass Notification System Requires More Flexibility Than Fire Alarm
Mass Notification Systems Offer Multiple Messaging Methods