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Notify everyone, reach everywhere

To ensure everyone receives key messages at the same time, communication has to be multi-faceted, says Siemens Building Technologies.

Clear communication is vital – whether it’s a routine message about parking or an emergency where people must be guided out of harm’s way. Organisations need the right tools to be able to respond and communicate the appropriate message quickly and clearly across their estate, ensuring they reach the right people, whether across a single building or a large campus, no matter where they are or what they are doing. It is common for an organisation to have a number of individual systems, often from multiple suppliers. This means operatives have to invest considerable time and effort communicating across many channels during a crisis and this parallel use of disparate systems can result in wasted critical response time and even contribute to further confusion and uncertainty.

Studies have shown that people are more likely to take a warning seriously if they receive it more than once and from multiple sources. Unlike conventional systems, mass notification systems use many different channels to convey vital information. In addition to existing building safety, alarm and communication systems, they also take advantage of the most broadly used web-based communication technologies:

• At your side through mobile phones, SMS, desktop notifications, media display units, e-mail and social media such as Facebook and Twitter, utilising the portable power and presence of personal devices.
• Internally via fire voice alarm systems, phones, desktop alerts and LED signs.
• Externally via public address systems with horns, sirens or giant voice.

Real-time information is delivered to a mass audience with the ability to target individuals or groups within an organisation, or entire zones with customised messages.

Case Study: Mass Notification for Florida State University (FSU)

Established in 1851 and with more than 44,000 students, faculty and staff on site, FSU’s main campus covers more than 13 million-square-feet and is located in Tallahassee, the capital of the state. FSU’s objectives were rooted in their primary mission to ensure the University is prepared to respond to, recover from, and mitigate against the effects of potential emergencies and protect the health, safety and wellbeing of its students, faculty, staff and visitors. Dave Bujak, Emergency Management Coordinator, states his challenge best: “When seconds can mean the difference between life and death, it can’t take minutes.”

Their key objectives were to reduce the time taken to respond to critical events on campus and to integrate mass notification with existing technologies into a single platform.
Siemens has delivered a multi-tiered mass notification solution that combines numerous functions for emergency communications into a central activation portal. Siemens has integrated more than 15 layers of communications for indoor, outdoor and personal device messaging. Components of the solution included the phone system/PBX, social media, giant voice via high powered speaker arrays, audible voice broadcasts across fire annunciation systems, web page updates, a gateway for web-based alerting to email/mobile phone/SMS messaging, phone towers, and voicemail systems. Multiple delivery methods are required to reach people inside campus buildings as well as outside on the quad and outdoor venues.

The system gives the operative the ability and authority to trigger an alert via the push of a single button. The system provides an immediate response with instructions to shelter in place, and then provides more information as soon as the situation is assessed by security management. Bujak explained: “The campus community knows we take alerts seriously and this leads to greater levels of trust and a greater feeling of safety for students, faculty, and visitors across our campus.

“There are 35 ways to deliver our messages – this system built by Siemens touches the 12 most critical – those being primary notification methods and multiple secondary notification methods. We are learning that safety is one of the top three factors for parents when choosing a campus for their student.”

The project has reduced the mass notification activation from an average of 20 minutes to less than five minutes, with most functions activating within two minutes – a 90% improvement. Additionally, operatives require very little training on the system due to its ease of use. FSU stakeholders were pleased that Siemens fulfilled the promise of using existing infrastructure and technologies in a design which maximised the return on the investment for the University.

In an age marked by increased threat, mass notification systems make a significant contribution to safety and wellbeing. Globally, Siemens has been working with customers to develop tailored solutions by harnessing digital technologies that enable improved and immediate situational awareness. With Desigo Mass Notification, Siemens has developed a flexible solution for both routine and emergency messaging that incorporates the very latest communication methods. The outcome is a net-centric alerting system, capable of multiple integrations and delivering a consistent, layered approach that encompasses visible, audible and personal communications.



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