If the Sandy Hook gunman had gone into the school and pulled the fire alarm, the number of victims could have been far higher. He would have had ample confused targets as students and teachers evacuated the building. A simple fire alarm is not sufficient anymore and may, by itself, be a safety hazard.
Organizations of all sizes must be able to communicate quickly and effectively with all personnel in more types of crises than a simple fire alarm. Mass shootings, bomb threats, terrorist attacks, amber alerts, and on-site disasters are facts of life in today’s world.
Lessons from Community Policing
Sunstates president Glenn Burrell says that the key to effective security is to make all personnel invested and participatory in their own security. From his experiences as a police officer on the beat, he says, “I was good at getting people in the community to trust me and give me information. I was only as effective as the people I was policing would allow me to be. If windows were drawn and doors locked when I passed, then my job was impossible. Being fed information from numerous sources allowed me to see the big picture. The same thing goes for an organization—it’s a community.”
Organizations must trust their employees or partners to watch over everyone’s safety. Don’t assume that someone else will report something amiss. This kind of cooperation does not happen overnight, but only through training and education, from top to bottom.
Mass Notification Systems: The Fire Alarm of the Future
According to Burrell, the future in workplace crisis management lie in Mass Notification Systems (MNS) that incorporate the community-minded approach and take advantage of all existing communication channels.
“Many schools already use mass text messaging to notify parents of any issues,” Burrell says. “Parents want to know if there is a crisis event. However, those systems rely on cell phones. This is fine unless excessive traffic—as in the case of crisis or natural disaster—crashes the network.”
Mass Notifications Systems, therefore, cannot be tied to one channel of communication—e.g., cell phones, text messaging, email—because of a wide variety of contingencies, such as power or cell network outage. During the Boston marathon bombing, for example, the cell phone network was shut down to prevent any further detonations that might have been triggered by cell phones.
The key is to include Wi-Fi as an additional communication channel, and in situations where seconds count, this is a huge advantage.
Good Communication Equals Business Continuity
Many incidents can be mitigated or negated by an early tip. Organizations must have the ability to stand everyone down from evacuating a building if an alarm is false or a ruse to clear a building. Having the ability to tell everyone in mid-flight to “stand down” and “take cover” is critical to saving lives. Furthermore, Sunstates’ own research shows that employees or associates feel more valued by organizations that allow them to communicate freely and openly with the security team. It’s a powerful way for a company to tell its employees, “We take your safety so seriously, we’re investing in it.”
The average workers’ compensation claim costs an organization $43k in lost time and compensation. Everyone in the organization should share tips on safety information—a picture of a malfunctioning door, a tripping hazard, a dangerous equipment problem—so that the problem can be fixed proactively. Organizations can save themselves significant time and effort by empowering their employees.
Nowadays, MNS is crucial to any business continuity plan. These systems give organizations the ability to notify all employees of a threat, fire, etc., with instructions about where to go and what to do—instantly. Glenn Burrell says, “Companies should incorporate MNS as a critical part of their business continuity plan.”
Contact Sunstates Security today for more information about Mass Notification Systems. Our specialists will be happy to assist with your business continuity needs.
Sources: Nacelewicz, Tess. “High Profile Bombing, Shootings Drive MNS Market.” June 10, 2013. Security Director News. http://www.securitydirectornews.com/general-news/high-profile-bombing-shootings-drive-mns-market