Role of Voice Messages in Mass Notification System

  February 6, 2015

One specific element that needs to be addressed in the early planning of a mass notification system is the role of voice messages, specifically pre-recorded versus live messages. In many cases, a mixture of the two will be the settled-upon solution, but clarity is critical to successful message delivery.

"Tell them what to do, because there are going to be people in these facilities like contractors, vendors — they don't know what to do," says Sean Ahrens, global practice director, Aon Global Risk Consulting. "People are going to be running around saying 'Code Black is in effect, Code Black is in effect.' What the hell does Code Black mean? Why's everybody running around?"

Another thing to keep in mind is the importance of saying enough, but not too much. Information overload can be a concern for a number of reasons, including potential liability issues after an event. Keeping messages concise can not only help ensure that people are doing what they’re supposed to do, but also help on-site responders and first responders act based only on the most critical information.

"The messaging that you're putting out needs to be well-vetted," says Jon Evenson, director of emergency management services, RJA. He notes that in some cases, the legal department can even be involved in determining the wording for pre-recorded messages.

Another reason for keeping messages short, especially live messages composed as an event is unfolding, is speed. It takes longer to draft an email or live voice message that is a paragraph as opposed to a sentence, and additional time gets added on to every step of the process that is in place to approve messages before sending. Sticking to the basics can speed up the process, because new information can always be sent out later when it's confirmed or details are sorted out.

"Generating that message takes time," says Bob Lang, chief security director at Kennesaw State University. "You have to get the facts; you don't want to just throw some assumption out there."


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