“I want to hear and be heard and understand what to do”

08/28/2017  | 

It never occurred to anyone that there would be confusion over what to do when the alarm went off. We relied on the drills. But we had visitors on campus and visiting instructors and we had not done a drill for nearly 6 months. 

It was no surprise that some unease leading to panic was occurring as well as directional challenges. The question lingered in our minds: What if this was a real emergency?


According to a study by David Cantor, on human behavior in fire situations, 13% of people reacted in a timely manner to a bell or tone. 75% of people reacted quickly to a voice message providing information and direction. And their response to a fully informed direction meant seconds if not minutes to their safety and security. Seconds matter.


Given this, are campuses making communication systems a priority?

The good news? Intercom systems are now built for value. They run on computer networks, as well as VoIP-based telephone systems. They integrate with access control and video creating a virtual guard presence that can diffuse tense situations, interrupt potentially destructive behavior, or prevent a theft. And when the worst happens, they can immediately inform and instruct clearly on where to muster, exit or stay in place.

They also can interface with email, text and digital signage allowing a multi-modal casting of critical notifications at the time of need, the context of need, and the place of need.

Some of the key reasons voice has not found its way into the core emergency procedures of most facilities is:

  • A perception of poor voice quality
  • A perception of high cost
  • A perception that video is the primary preventative security device.

According to the Fire Protection Research Foundation intelligibility is a core requirement of any security and safety system. It defines intelligibility as “a measurable aspect of electronic voice transmission systems that indicates the degree that human listeners are able to understand the voice messages transmitted through them.” It is not enough to hear. You also must be understood.

There are now ways to test for clarity and evaluate technology for intelligibility. According to Jim Hoffpauir, President of Zenitel USA, you must first evaluate the current and potential noise levels across your campus as part of any risk assessment. Then you must hire a consultant to evaluate the system design of the voice solution. Once this study is done, you then perform a proof of concept to ensure the evaluation criteria is demonstrated through a use case.

“We always urge spending time and investment on the risk, evaluation and the proof of concept to ensure that the core of your emergency notification system is functional”, said Hoffpauir.

After intelligibility is confirmed, then the system most interoperate with your access control and video management systems which, according to Hoffpauir, can also be tested within the same proof of concept.

With access control, video and audio tied together, you have the ability to provide a comprehensive virtual guard presence through an outsourced monitoring service.  According to Clayton Kemp, President of Global Guardian Sentry™ and founder of Police Priority®, more small-to-medium companies, due to a heightened security risk based on world events and the affordability of these technologies, will start utilizing virtual guard services. “We are seeing the need to ensure that all the information required to provide a fully informed situational response is available, said Kemp. “We can monitor the situation remotely, provide immediate information to first responders, and through intercom, be able to provide clear and concise directions at the point of need.”

Many are now using critical communications technology to provide information at the time of need for operational processes as well as emergency response. Lobby entrances that have a video and audio check-in before entry, school announcements, parking services, and campus alert boxes for medical and or behavioral issues are some additional applications.

“Communication is critical” said Hoffpauir, “whenever a situation demands a response. Strategically located intercom can help virtualize this and improve any situation.”

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