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How to Implement New Technologies Into Emergency Communication

Implementing new tech can be tricky, but working with trusted partners to make sure you'll have ongoing support and understanding what technology can and can't do can lead to success.

By Jon M. Evenson  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: How Technology is Changing Emergency Communication Pt. 2: This Page

With all the advances in emergency communication systems, technologies, and appliances, facility managers may find it challenging to understand the new options and how they could affect the operation of their system. Facility managers should work with trusted partners to understand the advances and how the new technology may affect system operations. Independent consultants that work with multiple vendors and manufacturers should be able to help facility managers evaluate if, when, and how new technology should be integrated into a system.

Another issue is system design and contractor support. On a typical project, a facility manager works with a system designer to design the emergency communication system to fit the operations of the site. A contractor then installs the system. Contractors and system designers are vital pieces of the overall process, but facility managers should also ensure that there is oversight and management of the system design and installation to confirm that the system is designed, installed, tested, and commissioned in accordance with codes and standards.  

Problems can arise when organizations rely too much on system designers and contractors during the design and installation process. If not managed properly, designers and contractors may design and install a system that costs more than necessary to meet the organization’s goals and needs.

When emergency communication systems are installed as part of an overall renovation project, it is critical to have a member of the organization’s project team be well versed in emergency communication system design requirements to verify that the design being submitted meets the needs of the organization as well as regulatory requirement. Without oversight, problems may not become visible until the system fails when needed during an emergency. 

New technology also brings new infrastructure requirements. Facility managers need to develop, implement, and keep up-to-date a maintenance and support program to verify the system’s operation and functionality. This program should provide a schedule of inspections, testing, and improvements to help ensure that the system is operational and will work when needed. Without such programs, organizations may struggle to take advantage of new technology, and may find that technology has an unexpected and negative effects on the system.  

As advances are implemented, facility managers should review the current strategies for maintenance and support to address any modifications required to support the new technology.

Most organizations that have installed emergency communication systems have some form of testing and maintenance program. The challenges arise when organizations don’t have specific strategies for testing the components of the system to verify its operational health. Testing should be completed and documented in accordance with national regulatory requirements and filed for review if requested by an outside agency or post-incident.  

Operator training is another critical issue. The training should ensure that operators understand the systems and equipment and how to coordinate emergency messaging. Training should include various levels, including classroom training, operational training, and functional exercises to test the operator’s ability to activate and manage emergency messaging. 

Technology improvements have made emergency messaging easier and faster, but these upgrades must be implemented carefully; otherwise, they have the potential to hinder an organization’s ability to push emergency information before, during, and after an emergency. Critical elements like operational strategies, training, testing, and maintenance are key to the overall success of an emergency communication system and must be addressed as the system is upgraded.  

Given the advances that have been made, now is the time to re-examine current emergency communication systems capabilities. Each organization should conduct a thorough review of its current risks, threats, and operational strategies to determine if new technology will improve the capability of the emergency communication system.

Jon Evenson (jon@tripleesafety.com) is the owner of Triple E Safety Group and has more than 24 years of experience in safety and emergency management.

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  posted on 9/19/2019   Article Use Policy

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