Mass Notification Appeal
Building upon basic voice communication systems, new mass notification platforms can integrate multiple technologies to communicate via public address, digital signage, texting, E-mail and more. For security contractors that adeptly maneuver through issues unique to the market, opportunities can be expected to follow.
“Many of these systems are being integrated but also riding on IT infrastructure,” says Bob Johnson, vice president of system sales for Sarasota, Fla.-based Cooper Notification.
As an example, Johnson referenced Millersville University in Pennsylvania where The Protection Bureau of Exton, Pa., completed an installation of Cooper Notification’s Roam Secure Alert Network (RSAN) in June. Prior, in 2008, The Protection Bureau installed Cooper Notification’s WAVES speaker array for broadcasting messages over wide outdoor areas. Today the integrated solutions allow university officials to activate their E-mail, text messaging and outdoor giant voice speakers from one user interface.
Increasingly, organizations are being distributed across multiple buildings and, in many cases, across distant geography. Here, too, new MNS solutions have the ability to very quickly communicate a variety of different types of threat scenarios.
“We may communicate with one individual in five or six different ways. The key being for those real critical events we want to make sure they get it in the fastest possible way,” says Jeremy Krinitt, vice president of marketing, REACT Systems, a provider of enterprise notification technologies. The Roseville, Calif.-based company has teamed with Honeywell to provide a unified security solution for emergency communication.[IMAGE]SS8mass-react.jpg[/IMAGE]
By interfacing with Honeywell’s Pro-Watch security management and WIN-PAK access control platforms, the technology can provide users with the ability to automate the process of initiating a response to critical scenarios, such as a forced entry at a campus building, to multiple groups.
“The appropriate information within that building might be to lock down, while simultaneously responders are told to report to that area because there is a security concern,” Krinitt says. “We might simultaneously tell people outside that immediate area to stay away.”
Because mass notification technologies allow a facility to contend with the specifics of a threat opposed to only announcing the threat, today’s solutions make for natural application in a broad range of environments.
Last year research firm Frost & Sullivan published a report that stated the North American MNS services market is experiencing strong growth with overall market revenues reaching more than $357 million in 2007. The report prognosticated the market would grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of nearly 17 percent through 2013.
Barriers Slow Market Progression
Nevertheless, the progres
sion of mass notification is being slowed on several fronts. One main reason is a lack of knowledge and experience in the development of MNS programs. Fortunately, the 2010 edition of NFPA 72, which was approved in June, is expected to inject much-needed guidance on the issue.
Another persistent barrier is a lack of education in the marketplace. Many end users are not informed on the wide range of technologies available nor do they understand what types of notification systems would work best in their facilities. For instance, contacting people via PDAs to deliver emergency notifications is still a new idea for many. Often the result is end users remain skeptical about the capabilities of these services.
“Over the next two years we think the most important thing we have to do is educate the end user on what the different technologies can be used for,” Milburn says. “It becomes a matter of how do we educate the entire industry to drive the important concepts of mass notification.”
The expense of some large mass notification solutions and the recession have also conspired to slow the pace of adoption. As industries continue to evaluate MNS options for the most cost-effective system, leveraging existing infrastructure is a priority to keep installation costs in check.
Security contractors should insistently look to incorporate the end user’s existing technology, says Fiel.
“We are going to want to incorporate it to the value of what [the end user] has already spent,” he says. “It is very critical to understand what you are purchasing currently and how you are going to move forward to a plan. It might take you five or six years to get to your plan’s final goals and objectives.”
NFPA Code Emerges to Guide MNS Designs, Installations
The recent growth of mass notification systems (MNS) in the portfolios of security contractors has largely taken place without the guidance of governing industry codes and standards. Now help is on the way with the passage in June of the 2010 edition of NFPA 72 and the efforts of Underwriters Laboratories (UL).[IMAGE]SS8mass-adt.jpg[/IMAGE]
NFPA 72, which is presided over by the National Fire Alarm Association and has undergone significant changes from the 2007 edition, includes the addition of three new chapters and a name change to National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code.
“Mass notification is a very specialized area where only a limited number of dealers have had access to such an opportunity,” says Al Colombo, SSI‘s “Fire Side Chat” columnist and who has provided technical direction for security and fire/life-safety dealers for more than 20 years.
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