Critical Pieces of a School Emergency Notification System

2015-08-21 17.42.11 Multiple modes of communication is the first critical piece when implementing a school emergency notification system. In an emergency situation, seconds count. Panic and confusion are deadly. Everyone in danger must be alerted as quickly as possible, and advised whether to lockdown, shelter in place or evacuate.

Study Shows Importance of Multiple Modes of Communication

That’s one of the takeaways from the New Jersey School Security Task Force Report and Recommendations, published in July 2015. The two years study into school security found the importance of rapid and clear communication in emergency response.  Critical information should be distributed “without delay in an understandable format,” ideally using multiple modes of communication.

Many Schools Are Not Prepared For Emergency Situations

Unfortunately, many schools are ill-equipped for active shooter situations, school lockdowns and emergency messages via mass notification. For example, announcements made over a PA system may not be heard in noisy areas, playgrounds, parking lots, sports fields or outdoor areas. Visitors to a public school building may be unaware of an emergency. As a result, emergency notification systems need both visual clues and audible alerts to ensure that staff members, students and visitors are alerted.

School Emergency Notification System Case Study

This approach to emergency communications is especially important for individuals with disabilities. That’s why St. Joseph’s School for the Blind selected the Lockdown and Emergency Notification System (LENS) from Eastern DataComm. Because of visual impairments and multiple disabilities, St. John’s students needed clear warnings as quickly as possible if an emergency were to occur.

Lockdown and Emergency Notification System by Eastern DataComm

LENS uses a proprietary controller integrated with the school’s PA system, strobe lights, wireless speakers and digital signage. Activate the system by dialing a code on any phone or pressing a lockdown button placed in key areas throughout the building. The emergency notifications spread throughout the campus in seconds. School administrators and first responders (local police, 911 and the Chief of Police) are also contacted simultaneously and automatically.

Hearing Audible Alerts

Hearing audible alerts throughout campus was of particular importance to St. Joseph’s. Eastern DataComm replaced the school’s aging PA system with a modern, less expensive solution. Additional speakers were installed to ensure there were no “dead spots” where announcements could not be heard. In addition, since the ShoreTel IP phone system has built in, handsfree intercom capabilities, the new paging only needed to make overhead announcements.

A key component of  LENS is Eastern DataComm’s expertise. The Eastern DataComm team analyzed the school’s facilities, designed the system and developed a detailed project plan. The ShoreTel phone system and other major components were installed and tested over winter break to minimize disruption. St. Joseph’s had planned to leave its old phone system online in case of problems, but the cutover went without a hitch. As a result, the Paramus School  in Paramus, NJ now has a flexible, highly reliable phone system with advanced features and crisp audio.

Although designed especially for school safety, LENS can help any organization increase safety through integrated communication and automation features. Contact Eastern DataComm for a demonstration of this unique solution.