Campus Security: How to Raise Situational Awareness Through Mass Notification

Systems integrators who implement centralized monitoring, mass notification and reporting for end-to-end emergency response management can raise the overall security of any campus client.

WHEN an emergency on campus occurs, confusion and panic often follow and so do communication breakdowns, delayed responses and costly mistakes. The first few minutes of any unfolding threat – whether a natural disaster or manmade – will be critical in determining its outcome. Of course, no teacher or administrator wants to think about an event with mass losses occurring on their campus, but today’s realities require increased diligence and proactivity, not just reactivity. The mindset has to shift from one of denial (“it won’t happen here”) to one of readiness (“we know what’s happening, where it’s happening and what to do about it”).

Inadequate vulnerability assessments, poor planning against identified risks and lack of training and evaluation lead to safety and security failures. Emergency preparedness and response planning is a continuous process that requires constant review and improvement. The right information has to reach both on- and off-site responders so they can make informed decisions.

If education campus clients can read, hear and see what’s happening in and around their schools, they can do something about it. Then they can analyze response times and protocols to identify problems and continuously improve safety and security. Such integration and automation through a common alerting engine creates situational awareness, ensuring that any campus’ alarm systems, networks, devices and response plans work in tandem. Such interoperability also means legacy technology investments don’t always have to be ripped out and replaced, alleviating some cost concerns for administrators.

Security integrators are positioned to educate campus clients on benefits of situational awareness as a risk management strategy and technology framework, ensuring details about potential threats or unfolding incidents are delivered automatically and in real-time to key individuals, groups or entire populations so they can act quickly and in accordance with their schools’ emergency protocols. Removing or at least reducing human error, the weak link in emergency response, creates more time to diffuse a situation and ensure it is managed correctly.

More: Integrator Helps Optimize Security System at New York City’s School of Visual Arts

What Is Situational Awareness?
Originally a military term referring to a pilot’s operational status and knowledge of immediate threats, today situational awareness has broad applications. Within an IT context, situational awareness refers to real-time information about what’s happening in and around a given facility, multibuilding campus or enterprise. This knowledge is made possible by integrating disparate alarm and communication systems for centralized monitoring, alerting and reporting.

Situational awareness isn’t complicated, but it can be challenging because of the alarm systems already at work in a given environment. Communication infrastructure has moved from rudimentary to supercharged – from radios, handsets and pagers to smartphones, tablets and other screens. But with computer-telephony integration (CTI) and robust middleware, every sensor, alarm and communication end point can be unified. Instead of a generic nomenclature, detailed alerts, including the nature of the alert plus location data, are delivered according to the school’s protocols.

It all starts with the situation. Whatever it is, information must be conveyed in real-time to those most likely to be affected, as well as the people responsible for investigation, containment and remediation. What’s dangerous in and around a campus? What actions should be taken to respond quickly to threats? With a universal alerting engine for situational awareness, any physical threat or deviation from normal operations will trigger an alert to on- and off-site responders or other constituencies based on preset modes and actions, or “if this, then that” scenarios, critical information that can improve response in both action and timing.

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