The MessageNet Blog

Get The Message Out!

The Unification of Safety, Security & Emergency Communication

In the MessageNet Connections video found on our home page (and on the right side of this post) we try to provide the viewer with a concise introduction to the features and benefits of our product and describe how Connections addresses the safety, security and communication challenges facing organizations today. What follows is the complete text of what I said in the video with an explanation of what I said and its importance to you, interleaved on a point by point basis.

“Emergencies, such as 9/11, Virginia-Tech, the London subway bombing, hurricane Katrina, and many others, have demonstrated that text messaging and mass dialing phones does not work.”

Many emergency communication and mass-notification systems deployed now and in the past have relied heavily on mass dialing phones and text messaging as the primary or exclusive way to notify people. For all of the significant incidences mentioned above, the internet is full of documentation that these methods have failed to effectively direct or even notify the affected people.

“These methods of notification fail because they don’t notify the majority of people fast enough to protect them from danger.”

Many emergencies evolve rapidly, often requiring life saving decisions to be made within a few minutes or even just a few seconds. For example, the shooter at Virginia Tech killed over 30 people in less than 10 minutes. A simple Google search of the incident reveals that many people received the warning as late as hours after the events occurred or didn’t receive it at all.

“On-site, network based emergency communication systems are needed to deliver information and instructions fast enough and specific enough to save lives.”

Mass dialing and text messaging are essentially completely dependent on the capacity of the cell phone towers servicing the area. These towers are designed to meet the needs of normal daily communications, far less than the volume that would be required to notify everyone in an affected area during an emergency. Though these systems advertise that they can send a large number of text or calls very quickly, the cell phone towers are limited and the delivery of the phones calls and text messages can be delayed and messages can be thrown away by the towers entirely. On-site, network based emergency communication systems like MessageNet Connections, which uses the high speed enterprise communication backbone, do not have these capacity limitations and can deliver many thousands of messages in a few seconds. Additionally, because Connections communicates to both mobile and fixed-location devices, it can provide instructions unique to the needs of people in specific areas during an emergency so they have the information to make better decisions that can save their lives.

“MessageNet Connections combines your emergency communication systems, with your everyday communications forming one, unified system.”

Connections, as the name implies, communicates across the spectrum of communication systems and devices, such as PA systems, fire and life safety systems, and security systems, integrating them with your PC network and phone systems to form a very cost-effective system that presents a unified functional capability to your staff.

“By having everything integrated, your emergency communications are given immediate priority delivery, with the ability to override daily communications, ensuring that your emergency messages won’t be drowned out by daily communications.”

As people become aware of impending danger, their stress levels quickly rise. This effect greatly reduces people’s ability to process information effectively and make decisions that can save their lives. By using the same communication equipment for emergencies that’s used for daily purposes means that Connections will suppress normal communications during the delivery of high priority messages reducing the stress and confusion.

“And, because your staff is using Connections daily, you know the system works and you can be confident that your staff will know how to operate it in an emergency.”

Study after study has shown that people under stress fail at executing procedures that they are not used to doing. By unifying emergency and daily communications under the same functional system, your staff can use the same skills and behavior when communicating and responding to emergencies that they use daily.

“MessageNet Connections is a multi-user system that allows your staff to send important messages from almost any device through a central system to virtually any combination of other devices.”

MessageNet Connections integrates your existing phone systems, cell phones, PA systems, fire and life safety systems, security systems, camera surveillance systems, and e-mail systems with panic buttons, sensors and your network of PCs.

“In addition to emergency communications, Connections is a great tool for everyday communications as well. It lets you get the most out of your investment in existing communications systems and appliances.”

Because Connections allows you to integrate your disparate communication, safety and security systems into one unified system you derive new synergies between these systems and deliver a real return on investment.

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Communicating Effectively to Meet Healthcare Staff Needs

A time & labor saving way to call for overtime staffing or emergencies

Hospitals and health care facilities are often challenged to meet daily staffing needs. Staff members can spend up to four hours dialing coworkers to fill open shifts each day. This process is both costly for the hospital and wasteful of the time that staff could be using to care for patients.

MessageNet Systems has found a solution to this problem that involves a simple click of a button. Staff can even accept shifts with a keypad selection – no need to dial a phone number.

A number of hospitals are already using MessageNet Connections for this purpose, as MessageNet far exceeds other automated dialing systems in many areas. MessageNet Connections allows users to set up multiple lists based on availability, department, or any other criteria. The message sender can then de-select anyone they know to be unavailable due to illness, vacation or any other reason. The message that is sent can be pre-programmed or customized each time and recipients can respond directly, with no need to dial back in. These messages can be sent to staff via phone, text, e-mail, or any combination thereof depending on the needs of the individual with a simple button click, saving healthcare facilities over 4300 nursing hours a year.

Click here to learn how MessageNet unifies medical alert & patient care systems with safety, security & communications

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The Benefits of Barricading

In light of the recent shootings at the Navy Base in Washington, D.C., it’s important to think about what our responses should be in an emergency. In situations with an active shooter, locking the door is one of the quickest things to do for people to protect themselves, but it’s often not enough. A locked door isn’t difficult for a determined shooter to shoot or break through. A barricaded door can protect better against bullets and can more effectively prevent an intruder from entering a room or breaking through a door.

However, barricades take time to create and a messaging system that can get instructions to the correct people in seconds rather than minutes can save many lives. A network-centric emergency communication system such as MessageNet Connections would be able to get a message out more quickly, which is vital in a situation where every second counts.

Emergency communication systems also needs to be location-aware and to be able to send different messages to different locations. In the event of an armed intruder, a message sent to cell phones wouldn’t be able to provide accurate instructions for everyone, because the same message would be sent out to everyone regardless of location. A system that can send messages out based on location, even including building and room number, could provide instructions to non-affected buildings requesting evacuation, while providing instructions to those in the same building as the shooter to barricade the doors. This would also save more lives, because an action that would save people in one location could endanger people in another unless everyone has the appropriate directions for their location and its circumstances.

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The Trouble with Weather Alerts

We’re often asked if we can automate weather alerts from the National Weather Service. While this is possible with MessageNet Connections, it’s not recommended. Weather alerts are often broadcast to a very large area and aren’t always relevant to specific buildings or locations. Automating weather alert messages also precludes any customization from the message, so all incoming weather alerts are treated the exact same way, regardless of severity of the alert and thus can be inconvenient to message recipients when the alert isn’t an emergency. Weather alerts are better sent automatically to one or two users, who can then determine whether the alert should be broadcast to a larger audience.
The same considerations also pertain to other types of automated alerts that come from an external source, such as emergency tests and Amber alerts. Any emergency information origination from outside the organization may have a different agenda and a larger constituency, resulting in the need to edit the information or recipients to make the content relevant to your organization.

Below is an example of the misplaced intrusion of an automated weather alert.

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MessageNet PA capabilities

Most people think of PA as being a simple audio tool. Pick up a phone and speak and your voice will be transmitted to speakers all over the building. While MessageNet does have the capability to transmit to any combination of speakers, our PA system has a lot more to offer.

  • Reply to a PA message via the two-way intercom feature.
  • Record and store thousands of recorded  message for later play.  Most systems limit you to a handful of recorded messages.
  • Schedule recorded messages to automatically play once or repeatedly.
  • Speak live and automatically record what was said for future use and for documentation.
  • Have a typed message spoken aloud through text-to-speech software that supports multiple languages.
  • Flash high-intensity lights to get attention.
  • Have a text message scroll across the PA device.

These additional capabilities make for a far more versatile and useful system that can meet the needs of many different situations. As an audio and visual PA system, it can be used in environments with deaf and blind people and is also ideal for emergencies, as people can be rendered deaf or blind in an instant by an explosion or other type of disaster.

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Cameras in classrooms

Cameras in classrooms are a valuable tool for a variety of reasons. They can be used for video conferences or for classroom-based morning announcements. They can even be used for classroom observation, which can be a useful resource for teachers to initiate a video recording of incidences in the classroom or to identify and document bullying.

Cameras can also be vital for emergency situations. Not only can they record an event to be analyzed after the fact, but they can also pop and display live video feeds from the point of interest to staff PCs and digital signage.  Additionally these cameras can deliver live video feed to police, fire fighters, or other emergency responders. Having advanced knowledge of a situation can mean saving more lives.

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Record Live PA

MessageNet already offers one of the most versatile and comprehensive PA systems on the market. We’ve recently added the ability to automatically record any announcement that is spoken live over a PA. This is useful because that same message can be replayed later if its intended recipient didn’t hear all of it, or if it needs to be repeated later East Inflatable Rentals. This allows for more complicated spoken announcements, because users no longer have to worry that the message will be lost or not remembered if it’s too long, since it can always be replayed. This also provides an audit trail, so if there’s been a problem with unauthorized use of the PA, exactly what was said and who said it can easily be found out.

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Save a PowerPoint as a Video

MessageNet Connections users with Microsoft PowerPoint (version 2012 or later) now have the option to save a PowerPoint presentation as a video file. This makes displaying a presentation on a MessageNet MediaPort a lot simpler. PowerPoint presentations have often had many specific settings that need to be correct in order to properly display (as explained in this earlier blog post: Make Power Point Presentations Compatible), so a video, which only needs to be saved in widescreen format, is a lot easier to successfully create and display. Another advantage of the video format is that all transitions and animations are compatible and display on MediaPorts, unlike the .ppt format, which is more restrictive.

To save a presentation as a video, follow these steps:
  1. Click on the ‘file’ tab and select ‘save & send’
  2. Under the ‘file types’ heading, select ‘save as video’
  3. If you haven’t already set up transition timings, it will ask you to do so next
  4. Save the file (it may take a few minutes for the file to be converted, depending on the speed of your computer)
  5. Finally, upload it to a MessageNet Connections media message and enjoy a nicer presentation that was easier to create
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Message Prioritization

Because MessageNet Connections can be used for both everyday and emergency communications, protocols for message prioritization need to be set up. Too often, users, not wanting their messages to be interrupted by others’, set theirs with higher priority levels, potentially blocking any other messages (even emergency messages) from being displayed or spoken. I recommend that an organization should establish priority standards for each type of message ahead of time so users know what priority to give their messages inflatable water slides.

The default priority for normal messages is 200. Other every day priority levels can be set around this base. While emergency messages should have higher priority levels, emergencies are not necessarily equal. This is where it’s vital to set priority standards before emergencies happen, so a message about a fire threatening the entire building isn’t blocked by a message about a water leak in the basement that may only damage equipment. Having different classifications for emergency messages can help make choosing a priority level easier. Also, within Connections’ User Database Manager, it is possible to restrict certain users from sending messages with higher than a certain priority, so only emergency personnel can send messages with emergency-level priority, making it easier to control how the priority levels of messages are set up.

I highly recommend these steps be taken to ensure that emergency communications are reliably delivered and are not lost in the crowd of common daily communications.

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Security in Schools

In an emergency, like the mass-shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, seconds matter enormously. An event of that nature is impossible to predict, and thus impossible to completely prevent, but if improving the speed and effectiveness of emergency communications can save at least one life, then it’s vital to do so. An emergency management and notification system needs to be able to provide specific, relevant instructions to different groups of people, give different sets of information to students, teachers, and parents, and to quickly notify and inform the police or other emergency responders.

Security features that can warn of an impending emergency are also vital. Features such as glass-break detectors, wireless panic buttons, fire panel integration, audio/visual PA, cameras, and location-aware way-finding can prevent bullying, save lives, and overall make schools a safer place without the hassle, expense, limitations or risk of armed security guards. While a security guard could provide some level of protection, it’s very expensive to employ even one inflatable water slides for sale. Also, a security guard cannot be in more than one room at a time, while cameras can be in every room and can project a live feed to first emergency responders and police, providing situational awareness so they can be prepared for the situation.

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