Robust Emergency Systems Installment One: Supervised Systems

Mass notification, paging, and public address systems are used to notify workers, guests or other occupants of a building or an area of pertinent announcements and/or dangerous situations. Speaker systems, visual notification and even telecommunications devices can be incorporated into a mass notification plan for a space. The important factor is getting the message to the correct audience in a quick and clear manner in order to avoid chaos and save lives. Scenarios involving the usage of these systems can range from general announcements, severe weather alerts to active shooter emergencies, with the messages delivered being tailored for the situation as well as the location of the audience.

Paging systems in schools and other large buildings are commonly used for emergency evacuation announcements. Since these announcements are part of the life safety plan for that space, the systems must be electronically supervised, meaning that the system must be capable of monitoring itself or being monitored by another system. If there is a malfunction in a component (speaker cabling cut, amplifier power supply goes bad, etc.) then the supervisory system is able to alert the owner of the situation. Many of these systems create graphical interfaces for operation and will often be set up with a ‘system health’ section where the user can view critical system information. Other systems can also generate text messages or emails that are automatically sent to appropriate users in the event a problem is discovered.

Digital Signage systems are more and more taking a role in Emergency mass notification as well. Many facilities are equipped with displays that provide a means with which users can get messages to areas quickly. This is done by overriding the existing digital signage displays during announcements and displaying the appropriate messaging. A coordinated digital signage system makes this possible and can greatly enhance the understanding of what people are supposed to do in certain situations. An example of effective visual notification would be for the system to take over all the classroom displays in case of an emergency in a school building. Each classroom’s display could be displaying content tailored specifically for that location, showing the proper evacuation route from that room, the right place to go for a tornado event, or whether they should shelter in place. The difference in receiving the correct information at times like these can be a life-or-death situation, and the speed at which that information is delivered is crucial.  Supervision of a digital signage system is a little more complicated than doing so for a speaker/paging system, but the concept remains the same. An interface is made available where the status and health of all the components in a system can be displayed and the system can alert users if components are offline.

So, while the goal is that the end user never has to think about the maintenance or use of an emergency paging system, the key to making that happen is planning and strategizing about it prior to the installation.