How to Choose a Mass Notification System

Given the myriad options businesses have when choosing mass notification systems, we set out to find what factors system managers should take into account when they select a solution.

First, figure out what you’ll need to be notifying people about. Is your facility vulnerable to severe weather? Hazmat spills? Terrorist attacks? Choose a system that will work best for the type of calamity you’re hoping to prevent.

After that, you’ll want to consider the demographics of the group you are seeking to notify -- and size isn’t everything here. “A 200-person nursing home, for instance, is going to have different considerations than a 200-person office building,” said Revan Davis, fire alarm engineer at Safe and Sound Alarm. While office workers may immediately open every e-mail or text message they get, nursing home residents are unlikely even to have such messaging accounts, and so auditory and visual notifications would be best for them.

You’ll want to consider, too, whether the population is stable or transient, Davis said. System administrators can collect contact information for members of a constant population and notify them personally via SMS or e-mail.

But at, say, a shopping mall, the population will vary widely from day to day and needs upfront visual or auditory notification.

The security industry loves leveraging its products for other functions. So what else can you use an MNS for? Systems with high-quality speakers can be used to pipe in background music. In addition to saving the cost of buying another device, using the voice function of a system in place of a public address system saves wiring space in ceilings -- which is hot real estate these days.

This article originally appeared in the September 2011 issue of Security Today.

About the Author

Laura Williams is content development editor for Security Products magazine.

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