Exit sign for building upon mass notification of emergency

Ever wonder what other schools or healthcare facilities are doing on emergency communications and mass notification trends? What’s working, what’s a headache, and how they’re investing their money? From time to time, the folks at Campus Safety survey campus security and emergency management professionals on their emergency response investments, obstacles, and strategies.

The latest survey, focused on emergency mass notification trends, is from 2014 — a bit rusty, yes, but still insightful as 700 respondents shared what solutions they’ve deployed or upgraded since then. Respondents represented K-12 schools and districts, colleges and universities, hospitals and health systems.

What we’ve learned:

Emergency notification solutions they planned to purchase or upgrade

Top responses:

  • Text message alerts
  • Mobile apps
  • Emails
  • Integration of systems they already have in place

Other responses:

  • Bull horns
  • Call boxes
  • Commercial mobile alert systems (CMAS)
  • Digital displays or scrolling message boards
  • External loudspeakers
  • Fire system with voice evacuation
  • Intercoms/overhead speakers
  • Phone trees/telephony
  • Pop-up alerts via computers, projectors in rooms
  • Posters
  • Sirens
  • Weather radios
  • Social media posting
  • Radio announcements
  • TV announcements
  • Website announcements

Robin Hattersley Gray, writing for Campus Safety, points out buying intent for emergency alert systems increased across the board, compared to 2010 survey results. “Not a single system covered in [the survey] experienced a decrease in buying interest,” she shares.

How they’ve enticed campus constituents to enroll in emergency alerts

Top responses:

  • Automatic enrollment with opt-out option
  • New hire/student orientation
  • Email announcements

Other responses:

  • Ads on campus radio, TV, newspapers
  • Automatic enrollment with no opt-out option
  • Digital signage announcements
  • Giveaways (enroll to win a prize)
  • Mailers
  • Newsletter/newspaper announcements
  • Parent association meetings
  • Parent/teacher meetings
  • Posters, flyers
  • Sign-up tables
  • Website announcements

The magazine points out automatic enrollment with opt-out option has grown in popularity, while sign-up tables have fallen out of favor in recent years.

How they’re paying for emergency notifications solutions

Top responses:

  • K-12 Schools/Higher Ed: general campus budgets
  • Healthcare: mix of general campus budgets, grants, department budgets, IT, facilities, and emergency management

Full range of responses:

  • Grants
  • Bonds
  • General campus budgets
  • Department budgets
  • Campus law enforcement budgets
  • IT budgets
  • Facilities department budgets
  • Emergency management budgets
  • Environment health & safety budgets
  • Shared costs with city or county
  • Private donations
  • Student fees
  • Public relations/marketing
  • Student housing

 Challenges they’ve experienced

Top responses:

  • Message delivery notification
  • Database management and updates
  • Integration of disparate systems
  • Testing systems

Other responses:

  • Buy-in from community
  • Buy-in from leadership
  • Clarity re: who has authority to issue alerts
  • Crafting written/verbal messages
  • Determining when it’s appropriate to issue an alert
  • Email and cell spam filters
  • Equipment maintenance
  • Local cell carrier issues
  • Not enough staff to manage systems
  • Parent enrollment in emergency alert systems
  • Student enrollment in emergency alert systems
  • Staff enrollment in emergency alert systems
  • Message throughput (speed and delivery)
  • Volume and intelligibility of siren/loudspeaker systems

Final thoughts on Mass Notification Trends

Emergency response is a big job with lots of moving parts, but an adequate strategy doesn’t have to break the bank. Integration with existing systems is one-way organizations can stretch their dollars and make significant improvements over time, as resources become available.

It’s the approach many survey respondents have taken: “Universities appear to be in the lead in the emergency notification system integration race, while hospitals are the least integrated,” the magazine points out. “K-12 districts are only three percentage points ahead of healthcare facilities.”

Which survey responses ring true to your situation, and which surprise you?