11 Mass Notification Definitions to Enhance Safety and Communication


Preparing for Disaster

Every organization has a different set of emergencies they need to prepare for. Strong preparation requires a keen understanding of how to communicate clearly during chaotic situations. While many organizations may understand the situations they need to prepare for, they may not always use the correct language when developing their communications. Without a firm understanding of what terms to use under what circumstances, organization leaders may cause unnecessary confusion.

In this blog post, we’ve compiled 11 mass notification definitions to enhance emergency preparedness so organizations can use the right language to keep people out of harm’s way.

Mass Notification Definitions

1. Lockdown

The term lockdown more generally refers to the restriction of people’s movement. The Department of Homeland Security states that specifically, the term can be described as “a security measure in which those inside a building such as a prison, school, or hospital are required to remain confined in it for a time.”

2. Shelter In Place

Shelter in place orders can be necessary due to a wide variety of unsafe conditions including circumstances related to chemical spills or other elements located outside a facility. The Safety and Security Department of the University of Chicago concludes that during a shelter in place order one must, “take immediate shelter where you are—at home, work, or school. When sheltering in place, the facility or structure where you are located will provide protection from elements outside.”

3. Evacuation

When ordered to evacuate a building, the occupants must exit as quickly and safely as possible. According to the Department of Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency, the most common cases of evacuation in the United States relate to fires and floods, but there are a wide variety of other circumstances where an evacuation may be necessary. The Safety and Security Department of the University of Chicago also adds that, “evacuation should occur through the closest exit way, but depending on the circumstances, an alternate or secondary evacuation route may need to be used.”

4. Active Shooter

The Department of Homeland Security defines an active shooter as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.” These situations can evolve quickly and typically conclude before law enforcement has the time required to arrive at the scene.

5. Violent Intruder

Violent Intruder is another synonym that ALICE training uses to refer to an individual who is actively engaging in killing or attempting to kill similar to an Active Shooter. This individual is not necessarily acting using a firearm, but instead could be using another type of violent weapon.

6. Severe Weather

Severe weather can strike rapidly at a moment’s notice. According to the Department of Homeland Security, “severe weather can include hazardous conditions produced by thunderstorms, including damaging winds, tornadoes, large hail, flooding and flash flooding, and winter storms associated with freezing rain, sleet, snow and strong winds.” The National Weather Service may also produce a severe weather warning or watch in your area if the likelihood of these conditions is high.

7. Natural Disaster

The Department of Homeland Security defines a natural disaster as any type of severe weather that has “the potential to pose a significant threat to human health and safety, property, critical infrastructure, and homeland security.” These events are not seasonal and can occur at any time, although there may be higher risk for certain regions depending on climate patterns.

8. Test

A test is a practice in which a system or process undergoes trial and examination in order to access and ensure that it is working properly. For example, this would include sending test messages through your emergency notification system to ensure they are being communicated effectively.

9. Drill

Drills are an important part of an organization’s emergency preparedness. Unlike tests, these events consist of coordinating a supervised practice-run of a specific function within an agency. The Department of Emergency Management of San Francisco recommends, “for every drill, clearly defined plans, policies, and procedures need to be in place. Personnel need to be familiar with those plans and policies, and trained in the processes and procedures to be drilled.”

10. Life Safety

The Life Safety Code is a guide published by the National Fire Protection Agency that outlines strategies of protecting people based on, “building construction, protection, and occupancy features that minimize the effects of fire and related hazards.” Published in response to a multitude of historic fires, the objective of this resource is to minimize the number of related casualties.

11. Mass Casualty Incident

The World Journal of Emergency Surgery defines the currently accepted definition of a Mass Casualty Incident as, “an event that overwhelms the local healthcare system, with a number of casualties that vastly exceeds the local resources and capabilities in a short period of time.” This means that depending on the resources of a particular community, a mass casualty incident would consist of more or less injured individuals.

With a better understanding of these terms, your organization can improve training and implement more effective plans to address emergency situations. Building these terms into message templates of your mass notification systems allows you to easily identify and deploy the correct alert with helpful instructions that keep people safe and informed.




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