7 Considerations for Choosing MNS

A guide to selection and deployment of wireless mass notification systems


The rise in workplace crime and safety issues has escalated over the past several years, causing organizations of all types and sizes to look for ways to better protect their property and human assets. This has led to many businesses needing to develop and implement a comprehensive mobile duress, situational awareness and mass notification system throughout buildings and campuses. In fact, the purchase and deployment of these systems has risen dramatically over the past several years — turning them into a mission-critical requirement.

Facility managers, security directors and integrators are faced with the daunting task of determining how best to integrate the myriad of building and security technologies available. Besides protecting their premises, they need to ensure the occupants and assets also are safe and protected. To overcome these challenges, any well-designed solution must be simple, reliable, easy to integrate, and cost-effective.

As a result, an increasing number of organizations are turning to integrated intelligent security systems that incorporate location, situational awareness and emergency mass notification capabilities to help protect their premises and human resources. These types of systems can help notify security personnel when an event occurs — anything from a fire to unwanted temperature increases to an injured person — and also pinpoint where it occurred. It integrates emergency mass notification capabilities so that a security director or facilities manager can notify appropriate personnel and get people out of harm’s way quickly and safely.

There are several things to consider before purchasing a wireless location/situational awareness and emergency mass notification system:

1. Basic System Needs: Specifying any security system begins with understanding the basics, such as premises size and layout, as well as who will interact with the system. Types of questions to ask include: How large is the overall site? Does it consist of one building or is it a large multiple-building campus? Who needs to access the site, how frequently and during what times of day/week? Who will be responding to events when they occur?

2. Construction or Environment: Since wireless systems offer much more flexibility and enable end-users to easily move sensors, repeaters and transmitters where needed, strong consideration should be given to using these technologies. Installing a hard-wired system is much less forgiving and can cost more without offering any greater security or reliability. A robust wireless technology with a repeater network can overcome most potential obstructions and ensure complete coverage of the site.

3. Location Capabilities: Historically, wireless duress alarms required multiple technologies in order to pinpoint location. Although 900 MHz wireless devices are the standard for duress and have been for many years, they have not been effective at pinpointing location. This can be overcome by adding supplemental technology, such as RFID tags, infrared sensors or ultrasonic sensors. Newer IP-based wireless duress solutions now use the same long-range wireless to both summon help and reliably pinpoint location, which greatly reduces the system’s overall cost and complexity.

4. Multiple Application Support: Another important element to consider is whether the system will support the integration of other devices and systems. For example, it should support standard intrusion sensors, such as door contacts and motion sensors, as well as a range of unique sensors, such as outdoor photo beams, fire extinguisher monitors and carbon monoxide sensors, as well as duress pendants. The system should take alerts from any of these devices, as well as information from other in-building systems — such as intrusion, access control and fire panels — and integrate them into a single notification engine.

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