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Why Multiple Modes of Communication Are Critical for Emergency Notification

2015-08-21 17.42.11In a crisis, seconds count. Panic and confusion can be deadly. Everyone vulnerable to danger must be alerted as quickly as possible, and advised whether to lockdown, shelter in place or evacuate.

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

Unfortunately, many schools are ill-equipped for school lockdowns and emergency notification. For example, announcements made over a school’s public address (PA) system may be not be heard in noisy areas, or in playgrounds, parking lots, sports fields or other outdoor areas. People coming up to the building may be unaware of an emergency. As a result, emergency notification systems should incorporate both visual clues and audible alerts to ensure that everyone on campus is advised of the emergency and kept informed.

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 St. Joseph’s serves students with visual impairments and multiple disabilities, it needed a communication system that would provide clear warning as quickly as possible if an emergency were to occur.

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

The ability to hear 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, and added speakers as needed 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 headend only needed the ability 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 to the school. St. Joseph’s had planned to leave its old phone system online in case of problems, but the cutover went without a hitch. The school now has a flexible, highly reliable phone system with advanced features and crisp audio, even when using the speaker phone functionality.

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.