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Get All Stakeholders Involved in Risk Assessments


When planning a mass notification system, start by gathering stakeholders — the owner, facilities, security, campus or local police, local fire departments, even occupant or staff representatives — and walk through a risk assessment, identifying events and evaluating their likelihood and severity.

Part of evaluating the risks includes how people can and will react and how they should be informed. That makes understanding the demographics of the population you're trying to protect an important part of the initial risk assessment.

"Are they an older population? That makes a difference in how we communicate to them," says Chris Jelenewicz, engineering program manager, Society of Fire Protection Engineers. "Or is it a college-type atmosphere, where we see a lot of transient behaviors? For example, no student is in the same building all day."

Jon Evenson, director of emergency management services, RJA, points out that in many cases, you also have to evaluate not only the types of buildings you have, but the types of spaces within those buildings. With work options such as hoteling or collaborative space becoming more popular, that adds another variable to the equation. This can lead to limitations on the traditional communication methods, including fire alarm panels that are compliant with the mass notification standards. If someone's working outside in a green area or a group of employees are sitting in the courtyard having a brainstorming session, they may not hear the alarm, or at least the message, so you can’t just say you'll use the fire alarm system and leave it at that.

"Trying to take a fire alarm system and turning it into a mass notification system doesn't really work, because you've got a lot of your occupants on the outside of the buildings," he says.

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