Emergency communications & mass notification

An exclusive roundtable-in-print

Emergency Communications & Mass Notification technology has caught fire in the security industry in the last few years. It has taken some time, but many vendors in this community have been working hard to overcome some of the obstacles to installing an effective EC&MN system. Security Technology Executive recently caught up with a group of vendors to share their views on where the technology is headed.

STE: What are some of the newest technological innovations that are impacting the EC&MN markets?

Samuel Shanes: With the introduction of layered mass notification platforms, timely and relevant message delivery took on a whole new meaning. Everyone realized there is no single technology that fits every situation. A systematic approach should be taken to prioritize and dissect message delivery medium (SMS, e-mail, RSS, LED signage, audio sirens) in order of importance and relevance.

Guy Miasnik: The last decade has seen a confluence of significant technological advances, and that technology build-up has come to the aid of physical security and public safety - taking first-generation mass notification PA systems and sirens through the 2nd generation of telephony/texting, to the latest, 3rd generation of net-centric mass notification, or turning an existing IP network into an emergency communication and mass notification system. IP networks enable notifying the masses with instantaneous yet tailored, two-way, unified communication reaching anybody, anywhere and anytime via any network-connected devices - computers, smart phones, tablets, IP Phones as well as basic SMS text messaging, pagers, emails, and phone calls.

Ted Milburn: Some of the latest innovations include both integrated Mass Notification Systems (MNS) and solutions that are interoperable with other life safety and security systems as well as complaint with the latest MNS requirements, including the National Fire Protection Association 2010 codes. With limited staff and multiple communication systems to activate, today's advanced MNS feature a simplified, single Web page to launch all of the different applications. Another trend is improving situational awareness and alerting time with interoperable life safety and security systems, such as integrating video, access control or third-party alerts like National Weather Service or Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with a facility's MNS.

Tom Giannini: The integration of multiple types of communications solutions is on the rise from our perspective. Many end-users are concluding that it is not possible to reach all of the personnel they need to support using only one type of emergency communications solution.

Steve Sipe: The demand for a Web-based, fully hosted mass notification system is at an all-time high. With budgets increasingly strained, end-users are looking for a communications provider that does not require the purchase or installation of equipment or additional phone lines. Innovation in emergency notification is also tracking closely with the recent rise in privacy concerns. Self-service opt-in portals are being developed to ensure that alerts are sent to the correct recipients in the preferred method and format.

Al Brummel: It is common knowledge that the use of multiple disciplines is encouraged to ensure effective management in these markets. A key consideration now is designing these tools to work together. VoIP technology and the Internet are providing a means by which all voice, SMS, CAP, e-mail and other methods of propagating an emergency notification can integrate and operate on a common platform. The challenge is to provide end-users with the ability to migrate or upgrade at a cost-effective rate.

STE: What different technologies and/or methods of EC&MN would be best for a complete, end-to-end solution?

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