Implementing an Emergency Mass Notification/Location System

Things to consider prior to purchasing an MNS solution

In today's world of increasing concerns over safety, security and protection of lives and valuable assets, the need for developing and implementing a comprehensive mobile duress, situational awareness and mass notification system has become not just nice to have, but rather a mission critical requirement.

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 not only can help notify security personnel when an event occurs-anything from a fire to unwanted temperature increases to an injured person-but also pinpoint where it occurred. It also 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 considerations prior to 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. 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 allow you to easily move sensors, repeaters and transmitters where needed, strong consideration should be given to utilizing these technologies. Installing a hardwired system is much less forgiving and can cost more without offering greater security or reliability. 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 900MHz 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, as examples. While effective at achieving location, the system cost goes up significantly each time another technology is added, as does the overall system complexity. 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 instance, it should support standard intrusion sensors, such as door contacts and motion sensors, as well as a wide 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, like intrusion, access control and fire panels, and integrate them into a single notification engine. Rather than just looking for a system that only offers mobile duress, look for a system that leverages your existing investments into a single platform at greater value and similar price.

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