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Best Practices for a Safe Environment

Last week, I wrote about how important it is to have a plan for emergency events. More lives are saved when a plan is in place and everyone knows what to do, rather than simply reacting to the situation.
The Council of Educational Facilities Planners International have released Safe Schools: A Best Practices Guide, for that very reason. The guide, available in PDF form for free online, emphasizes the need for communication in a crises. In fact, page 7 of the guide is titled Crisis Communications.
The guide lists recommended devices, including PA, cameras, multiple communication devices, broadcast messaging, and a plan, all of which MessageNet Connections can provide. We go a step further, however, and use the emergency system for everyday communications as well, to ensure that users won’t forget how to use the system before an emergency happened.

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Don’t Be Surprised by Emergencies

While everyone hopes that emergency situations don’t arise, it’s important to not let one take you by surprise. According to Campus Security Magazine, your emergency alert system is ‘only as good as your plan’.

Having a plan in place for any possible emergency situations is important and can save lives. However, Campus Security also believes in testing your emergency communication system regularly. Though they see this practice as a requirement to ensure your system works properly if and when an emergency arises, it can involve considerable time and expense for your organization. Eliminating this cost is why MessageNet Connections isn’t designed to be just an emergency system. It’s also designed for every day communication; when used daily, users won’t forget how to use it in between emergencies and so that it’s effectively tested every day via constant use.

The article also discusses many different systems without talking about how they might work together. MessageNet Connections can integrate with many different types of systems, so it’s easier to unify communications and emergency alerts, rather than having many different emergency systems for different scenarios.

One integrated system that is used every day can save lives more easily and be cost-effective and more efficient at the same time.

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Prepare For the Worst

All technology eventually fails. Cars, phones, tablets, computers, even MessageNet servers.

MessageNet Connections, which is often heavily relied upon for both everyday and emergency communications, is software and web browser-based. However, the hardware that supports it unfortunately cannot last forever. Many customers that have been with MessageNet for many years and have much older servers find that their hardware begins to fail; and the way they’ve got their system set up means that until they can purchase a new server, they’re completely without MessageNet services. In addition, if the server failure stems from the hard-drive, data may not be recoverable and the customer would have to start from scratch.

It’s important to have the right setup to protect data. MessageNet usually recommends having a redundant server setup so that if one server fails, there’s a second one to act as back-up. However, this isn’t always possible, so instead keeping a saved copy of the MessageNet hard-drive can prevent data loss and decrease down-time if a new server is needed.

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Why Unify Safety, Security & Communcations

MessageNet Connections unifies safety, security, and communications systems where so many other products provide just one of these. Why is the unification of these systems so important?

  • Users only have to log in to one system to control and send messages to any connected device, whether it’s for safety, security, or every day communications. In addition, as a unified system, three user interfaces are replaced by just one, reducing training and increasing user confidence with the system.
  • Because they’re connected, devices don’t have to compete to be heard. With Connections, an emergency message will pause any other messages so it’s guaranteed to reach people in a timely fashion.
  • Too often, an emergency system goes un-needed for so long that people forget how to use it. Connections is used for both emergency and every day communications, so when an emergency situation arises, users are already familiar with the system from using it every day, so they can respond more quickly.
  • Because the unification of safety, security, and communication facilitates daily use, it improves the return on investment (ROI) and combines multiple capabilities provided by MessageNet Systems and the spectrum of systems it connects to. Daily use continuously verifies that the systems are always maintained to a state of verified readiness without incurring the expense of periodic formal systems testing that is necessary with systems not subjected to daily use.
  • Unifications of safety, security, and commmunications also shares hardware and software resources across these technology platforms, increasing synergies while reducing cost.
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Using Web Links in Emergency Messaging

The internet can be a powerful messaging tool, especially when it comes to getting specific information out to specific people in an emergency situation. MessageNet Connections can provide links to web pages that pop up and load on PCs when the message is sent. This type of message can also be sent to LCD digital signage screens via Mediaport controllers.

This capability is important because it gives organizations the ability to provide everyone with the specific instructions that they need rather than general information that is not specific enough to be actionable or may not apply to everyone. These messages can be created and saved in advance, so different types of emergencies can be planned for.buy sumo suits For example, if there is a severe weather emergency, the national weather service webpage can be displayed on LCD screens, while specific relevant sections of an online emergency preparedness manual can pop up on the computers of the emergency response or security team.

Displaying a webpage on an LCD screen can be easily set up in advance as a media message with web page selected as the media type, this can be set up in the Hyperlink section of the message editor. To pop a web page up on a computer, PC Alert has to be resident on computers receiving the message. If you elect, the MessageNet support staff can manage this process for you or instruct your staff in its application.

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Why is Clery Act Compliance Still a Problem?

With a daughter about to leave for college, I began to look into the Jeanne Clery Act. Professionally, I was surprised, and as a parent extremely concerned, that even after almost 25 years since its enactment, compliance to the Clery Act remains a problem across many U.S. campuses. A safe learning environment should be a right for any college student or employee. Why is compliance such an issue when there are solutions easily available?

The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Crime Statistics Act, signed into law in 1990 and originally known as the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act, places numerous and intensive reporting requirements on colleges and universities that participate in federal financial aid programs. These requirements include the following zorb balls canada:

  • Issuing “timely” warnings of crimes that represent a serious or ongoing threat to the safety of all students and campus employees.
  • Publish and distribute an Annual Campus Security Report to all current and prospective students and employees.
  • Devise emergency response, notification, testing policies and publish these policies in their Annual Campus Security Report.
  • Compile and report fire data and publish annual fire safety reports.
  • Maintain a public crime log of the most recent 8 years, disclosing crime statistics for eight major categories (Criminal Homicide, Sexual Offenses, Robbery, Aggravated Assault, Burglary, Arson, Motor Vehicle theft, and Arrests and/or disciplinary referrals for Liquor-law; Drug-law; and illegal weapons possession violations)
  • Enact policies and procedures to handle reports of missing students.

Many emergency communication systems have proven ineffective for mass notification of ‘timely’ warnings during an emergency as these systems are reliant on mass dial to cell phones, which depends on the capacity of the cellular towers servicing the area. These towers are designed to meet the needs of normal daily communications, far less than the volume required during an emergency. When tower capacity is exceeded, messages are delayed and even discarded by the cellular service due to the ‘bottleneck’ of outgoing bandwidth.

MessageNet Connections is an on-site, network-based, emergency communications systems; it doesn’t have the capacity limitations of mass dialing and texting systems and can deliver thousands of messages simultaneously. Additionally, Connections can provide location-specific messages instead of a ‘blanket’ message as well as specific instructions in relation to the event or emergency. Location-specific messaging can save lives by providing unique directions to individuals to seek safety with respect to the location of the danger at hand.

MessageNet Connections also provides detailed logs of all messages, including both emergency notifications and daily communications. This information trail is very helpful in meeting Clery Act requirements for compiling and publishing annual security reports.

Lastly, MessageNet Connections integrates both a daily communication system with an emergency notification system. Staff become very comfortable sending and receiving messages since it’s part of day-to-day operations. In the event of an emergency, staff members will react and respond quicker because they are very familiar with operating the system as part of their daily work. Minutes saved at a critical time can minimize dangers and save lives.

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The Unification of Safety, Security & Emergency Communication

In the MessageNet Connections video found on our home page (and on the right side of this post) we try to provide the viewer with a concise introduction to the features and benefits of our product and describe how Connections addresses the safety, security and communication challenges facing organizations today. What follows is the complete text of what I said in the video with an explanation of what I said and its importance to you, interleaved on a point by point basis.

“Emergencies, such as 9/11, Virginia-Tech, the London subway bombing, hurricane Katrina, and many others, have demonstrated that text messaging and mass dialing phones does not work.”

Many emergency communication and mass-notification systems deployed now and in the past have relied heavily on mass dialing phones and text messaging as the primary or exclusive way to notify people. For all of the significant incidences mentioned above, the internet is full of documentation that these methods have failed to effectively direct or even notify the affected people.

“These methods of notification fail because they don’t notify the majority of people fast enough to protect them from danger.”

Many emergencies evolve rapidly, often requiring life saving decisions to be made within a few minutes or even just a few seconds. For example, the shooter at Virginia Tech killed over 30 people in less than 10 minutes. A simple Google search of the incident reveals that many people received the warning as late as hours after the events occurred or didn’t receive it at all.

“On-site, network based emergency communication systems are needed to deliver information and instructions fast enough and specific enough to save lives.”

Mass dialing and text messaging are essentially completely dependent on the capacity of the cell phone towers servicing the area. These towers are designed to meet the needs of normal daily communications, far less than the volume that would be required to notify everyone in an affected area during an emergency. Though these systems advertise that they can send a large number of text or calls very quickly, the cell phone towers are limited and the delivery of the phones calls and text messages can be delayed and messages can be thrown away by the towers entirely. On-site, network based emergency communication systems like MessageNet Connections, which uses the high speed enterprise communication backbone, do not have these capacity limitations and can deliver many thousands of messages in a few seconds. Additionally, because Connections communicates to both mobile and fixed-location devices, it can provide instructions unique to the needs of people in specific areas during an emergency so they have the information to make better decisions that can save their lives.

“MessageNet Connections combines your emergency communication systems, with your everyday communications forming one, unified system.”

Connections, as the name implies, communicates across the spectrum of communication systems and devices, such as PA systems, fire and life safety systems, and security systems, integrating them with your PC network and phone systems to form a very cost-effective system that presents a unified functional capability to your staff.

“By having everything integrated, your emergency communications are given immediate priority delivery, with the ability to override daily communications, ensuring that your emergency messages won’t be drowned out by daily communications.”

As people become aware of impending danger, their stress levels quickly rise. This effect greatly reduces people’s ability to process information effectively and make decisions that can save their lives. By using the same communication equipment for emergencies that’s used for daily purposes means that Connections will suppress normal communications during the delivery of high priority messages reducing the stress and confusion.

“And, because your staff is using Connections daily, you know the system works and you can be confident that your staff will know how to operate it in an emergency.”

Study after study has shown that people under stress fail at executing procedures that they are not used to doing. By unifying emergency and daily communications under the same functional system, your staff can use the same skills and behavior when communicating and responding to emergencies that they use daily.

“MessageNet Connections is a multi-user system that allows your staff to send important messages from almost any device through a central system to virtually any combination of other devices.”

MessageNet Connections integrates your existing phone systems, cell phones, PA systems, fire and life safety systems, security systems, camera surveillance systems, and e-mail systems with panic buttons, sensors and your network of PCs.

“In addition to emergency communications, Connections is a great tool for everyday communications as well. It lets you get the most out of your investment in existing communications systems and appliances.”

Because Connections allows you to integrate your disparate communication, safety and security systems into one unified system you derive new synergies between these systems and deliver a real return on investment.

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Communicating Effectively to Meet Healthcare Staff Needs

A time & labor saving way to call for overtime staffing or emergencies

Hospitals and health care facilities are often challenged to meet daily staffing needs. Staff members can spend up to four hours dialing coworkers to fill open shifts each day. This process is both costly for the hospital and wasteful of the time that staff could be using to care for patients.

MessageNet Systems has found a solution to this problem that involves a simple click of a button. Staff can even accept shifts with a keypad selection – no need to dial a phone number.

A number of hospitals are already using MessageNet Connections for this purpose, as MessageNet far exceeds other automated dialing systems in many areas. MessageNet Connections allows users to set up multiple lists based on availability, department, or any other criteria. The message sender can then de-select anyone they know to be unavailable due to illness, vacation or any other reason. The message that is sent can be pre-programmed or customized each time and recipients can respond directly, with no need to dial back in. These messages can be sent to staff via phone, text, e-mail, or any combination thereof depending on the needs of the individual with a simple button click, saving healthcare facilities over 4300 nursing hours a year.

Click here to learn how MessageNet unifies medical alert & patient care systems with safety, security & communications

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The Benefits of Barricading

In light of the recent shootings at the Navy Base in Washington, D.C., it’s important to think about what our responses should be in an emergency. In situations with an active shooter, locking the door is one of the quickest things to do for people to protect themselves, but it’s often not enough. A locked door isn’t difficult for a determined shooter to shoot or break through. A barricaded door can protect better against bullets and can more effectively prevent an intruder from entering a room or breaking through a door.

However, barricades take time to create and a messaging system that can get instructions to the correct people in seconds rather than minutes can save many lives. A network-centric emergency communication system such as MessageNet Connections would be able to get a message out more quickly, which is vital in a situation where every second counts.

Emergency communication systems also needs to be location-aware and to be able to send different messages to different locations. In the event of an armed intruder, a message sent to cell phones wouldn’t be able to provide accurate instructions for everyone, because the same message would be sent out to everyone regardless of location. A system that can send messages out based on location, even including building and room number, could provide instructions to non-affected buildings requesting evacuation, while providing instructions to those in the same building as the shooter to barricade the doors. This would also save more lives, because an action that would save people in one location could endanger people in another unless everyone has the appropriate directions for their location and its circumstances.

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The Trouble with Weather Alerts

We’re often asked if we can automate weather alerts from the National Weather Service. While this is possible with MessageNet Connections, it’s not recommended. Weather alerts are often broadcast to a very large area and aren’t always relevant to specific buildings or locations. Automating weather alert messages also precludes any customization from the message, so all incoming weather alerts are treated the exact same way, regardless of severity of the alert and thus can be inconvenient to message recipients when the alert isn’t an emergency. Weather alerts are better sent automatically to one or two users, who can then determine whether the alert should be broadcast to a larger audience.
The same considerations also pertain to other types of automated alerts that come from an external source, such as emergency tests and Amber alerts. Any emergency information origination from outside the organization may have a different agenda and a larger constituency, resulting in the need to edit the information or recipients to make the content relevant to your organization.

Below is an example of the misplaced intrusion of an automated weather alert.

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