Emerging trends in school emergency notification systems

Emerging trends in school emergency notification systems
Safety in schools has, without a doubt, remained a concern ever since the fatal Sandy Hook shooting incident in 2012. Authorities have attempted to tighten control over the learning environments, but statistics clearly show there is much more to be done.
 
In terms of security technology, an area that requires careful consideration is the emergency notification systems. While most schools in the developed world would have some form of mass notification system, the current situation warrants modern communication solutions that can be effectively put to use in the event of a crisis. Fortunately, school authorities and security manufacturers are realizing this.
 
In a recent blog post, Oded Shekel, VP of Product Management at AtHoc, a subsidiary of Blackberry, identified six major trends that are set to influence the market in 2016.
 
Interoperability: Seamless communication across departments and agencies are a key to providing effective emergency services. In the event of a crisis, this allows personnel to work together depending on what the situation demands.
 
Centralization: As organizations, including schools, try to implement security solutions, their prospective increase in size comes under consideration. It then becomes important that the emergency notification system is operated at an enterprise level, as opposed to fragmented installations that cater to smaller areas.
 
Cyber security and cloud: Cloud-based solutions are here to stay, as their convenience appeals to end users. But it doesn't come without concerns of cyberattacks. Shekel feels that in 2016, organizations will find the right balance between choosing cloud and ensuring cyber security.
 
IoT and integration: IoT has become the buzzword for the year already, and it will be no surprise that they will be an influencer in the emergency notification segment as well.
 
“With more devices connected to networks, centrally controlled communications can now be sent out simultaneously via a large number of channels,” Shekel noted. “In addition, not only are these devices connected to networks, but many are also used as sensors to inform the emergency community, including phone cameras, heart monitors, etc. In 2016 we expect to see a greater push in unifying alerting activities across devices.”
 
Global reach: Depending on how large an organization is, emergency notification systems would need to reach beyond traditional borders. Moreover, with localization of language, users could receive alerts in the language of their preference.
 
Completely mobile: Mobile phones have gone way beyond their basic functions to become the ideal tools for emergency notification systems. Users will be able to receive alerts on their devices, while system operators will be able to manage the alert system through any web-enabled device.
 
This could prove effective where users, for instance school students, find themselves in situations where there is access to no other kind of technology. In fact, Pat Scheckel, VP of Business Development at Singlewire Software, stressed on this last point as a key trend he witnesses now.
 
“The biggest trend we’ve noticed is the need to reach people on their mobile devices and on premise,” Scheckel said. “A system that it able to communicate with designated devices on campus and the personal devices of key personnel helps ensure everyone is aware of emergency notifications. If a message is only sent via SMS text messages or placing phone calls from a cloud service, 70-85 percent of your desired population might receive it. But, if you add in overhead speakers, digital signage, desk phones, desktop clients, etc., you’ll get much closer achieving 100 percent reach. 
 
He also mentioned the role that social media have to play. “Messages can be sent from our mobile app to mobile and on-premise devices and can include text, audio and images, and can even broadcast to linked Twitter feeds. It also features response verification so the person sending the message can see who has read it, and if someone needs assistance during an emergency situation,” Scheckel added.
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