Integrating Mass Notification with Fire Alarm Systems

Incorporating mass notification into new fire alarm systems can help protect your campus from modern dangers.

In an emergency situation, panic can quickly turn into pandemonium when people are confused and frightened. Like shouting “fire!” in a crowded theater, outdated fire alarm systems that consist only of horns and strobes communicate the threat of imminent danger, but little other information.

Now the ‘theater’ is growing. Many organizations are expanding their campuses and adopting new technologies. People are starting to realize they need more security as the face of the modern emergency changes.

"If you had talked to most school folks 15 years ago, they would have never thought they needed a procedure to lockdown a school," Greg Jakubowski, principal and chief engineer for Fire Planning Associates, told Campus Safety magazine. "But now after these school shootings and other events, folks realize they need a procedure to lockdown the building. That requires a different type of alarm than the fire alarm box with all of the horns and strobes going off, which was all the systems were capable of doing when they were designed 20 years ago."

Ouachita Baptist University (OBU), a private liberal arts university in Arkadelphia, AR, came to a similar realization after the Virginia Tech shootings.

In order to protect the school in the event of a shooting or other modern emergency, “We needed to build a layered system,” said Rob Crockett, Network Administrator at OBU. “We didn’t need to rely on just one aspect. We needed to rely on many aspects.”

They turned to Singlewire Software to implement an integrated, four-phase InformaCast solution that caters to the specific needs of the university. Their new system is easy to use, and has the ability to ring all phones on campus, as well as send messages via a variety of media, including speakers, text messages, and email. The system showed its mettle on August 24, 2010, when police alerted the OBU administration that an armed robbery suspect had run onto their campus.

“[InformaCast] worked very successfully,” said Crockett. “We were able to do a complete lockdown on our whole campus within about five minutes of initiating the alert to people.”

OBU is one of many organizations that are adopting multi-functional mass notification systems, indicating a trend away from outdated fire alarm systems that consist only of horns and strobes.

As Michael T. Madden, national sales manager for Gamewell FCI, told Campus Safety magazine, "I think in the next five years, we will have very few horn/strobe-type systems being installed. I think we're going to move over to voice just for the simple reason that it does so much more."

Campus Safety magazine quotes taken from Incorporating Mass Notification into New Fire Alarm Systems by Robin Hattersley Gray.

Latin School of Chicago uses InformaCast to send notification when a fire alarm is triggered. Watch the video below to learn more.




InformaCast Online Demo