Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Alert System, Emergency Communications

Do Your Disaster Plans Include a Mass Notification System

Emergency managers are experiencing a “sense of urgency” about the importance of including mass notification systems in professional disaster plans. I often experience a “sense of urgency” when I haven’t gone for a walk. But I digress.

A mass notification system is a means of delivering a message to a large set of recipients. The complexity of the system is often dependent on the type of message that must be sent. For example, a mass email might be sufficient to alert employees about a drill, whereas notifying individuals when a building is on fire would require real-time interaction, escalation, scheduling, rosters and fail-over scenarios. One such mass notification system is the Emergency Alert System (EAS). I’m telling you—the Twilight Bark is the best Mass Notification System known to canine.

Homeland Security describes the EAS like this: “The EAS is a national public warning system that requires broadcasters, cable television systems, wireless cable systems, satellite digital audio radio service (SDARS) providers, and direct broadcast satellite (DBS) providers to provide the communications capability to the President to address the American public during a national emergency. The system also may be used by state and local authorities to deliver important emergency information, such as AMBER alerts and weather information targeted to specific areas.”

At a recent international security system conference, emergency manager, Mike Madden, explained the sense of urgency about creating mass notification systems of all kinds: “I think we are beginning to see a trend towards MNS spreading to larger corporate campuses and large manufacturing facilities because of the very nature of these large complexes and violence in the workplace. People are looking at more options to protect their employees.”

Incidents like the bombing of the Khobar Towers in 1996 and the shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007 moved the concept and importance of mass notification to the forefront for government as well as secondary education. As a result, the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs are adopting mass notification systems for hospitals and clinics around the country. What’s more, large defense contractors like Boeing are starting to explore the need for bring mass notification for military bases. I saw the need for this kind of system when the Red Baron started attacking Snoopy. What’s up with that guy, anyway?

Part of the reason for interest in the systems is a basic cost benefit analysis for business owners who realize that, in an emergency, a mass notification system can get everyone to rapidly assemble at the onset of a disaster and quickly return to work stations following emergencies. And time is money. And money is bacon.

Peter Ebersold, director of marketing for Notifier/Honeywell Fire Group said that, post September 11, most people expect mass notification to be employed. And at airports, that’s probably true. However, such is not always the case. In fact, a host of public transportation stations and large commercial buildings have no such system in place.

Fortunately, the RJWestmore Training System features a fully-integrated messaging system, which allows all users to instantly communicate with tenant managers or occupants in any property, without the necessity of leaving the RJWestmore Training System. While logged in, users can easily send mass messages which are delivered to everyone located in one or multiple properties, simply by clicking “all,” or targeting particular groups. So subscribers of the RJWestmore Training System don’t have to invest in cost-prohibitive free-standing notification systems for their commercial properties. You gotta love a system that comes free within another system.

When a disaster of any kind strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJWestmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.5 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. What’s more, the NEW RJWestmore Property Messaging System is included FREE for all RJWestmore Online Training System users. Visit for more information.

Posted in Emergency Alert System

Emergency Alert System Test–This is Only a Test…

Some viewers heard Lady Gaga singing during the latest EAS Test.

When it comes to emergency management and disaster preparation, communication is king. Wait, I thought I was the king? At least I’m king of my own doghouse. On November 9th, FEMA conducted a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS). In 1997, the EAS replaced the Emergency Broadcast System which had been in use since 1963. The current system uses the familiar signal-sound to alert viewers and listeners to impending emergency announcements and to enable localized hazardous weather alerts. Now take that sound and amplify it times 1.5 billion. That’s a dog whistle for pooches. But the EAS was developed in order to allow the President of the United States the ability to address the nation within minutes.

With about 15,000 radio and broadcast stations participating in the November 2011 national test, most reported a smooth testing procedure, but it was not without its hiccups. Improving the test is an ongoing goal of both the government and broadcast partners which requires the public and private sector working together for a worthwhile common goal of improved emergency communications. I have my doubts about this one, I’ve been watching C-SPAN and I don’t see too much cooperation.

Here are some of the glitches that occurred during the test:

  • One North Dakota county reported that only 33 percent of the area stations broadcasted the test.
  • Some DirectTV subscribers heard a different kind of piercing sound than everyone else—footage of Lady Gaga singing instead of the test alert. Now that’s just awesome.
  • Some Time Warner Cable subscribers saw home-shopping wares in place of the emergency alert. I prefer watching: “When Animals Attack!”
  • Individuals using antennas for reception reported that they saw regular programming, or that the EAS image stayed on the screen long after the audible test was completed.

Despite these glitches, the federal agencies involved assured the public that they were conducting a working test, and that data would be gathered and evaluated in order to improve the system. They even sent out a release prior to the test to make it clear that they were not anticipating a 100-percent success rate. I have a 100 percent success at being awesome. It’s just a natural talent. A shiny coat wins every time. One of their reasons for anticipated glitches was because there are so many stations throughout the country, each one with specialized equipment necessary to successfully accept and transmit the test signal and associated emergency announcement.

A frequent criticism of the EAS is that it ignores new communication methods which most people rely on such as the Internet and mobile devices. Until recently, I thought these mobile phone things were actually attached to people, like a third hand. The EAS was not sent via either of these channels. However, there is a new initiative called the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) which aims to integrate several alert methods and agencies in order to greatly enhance coverage.

Here are a few interesting facts about the new system:

  • Intended as an umbrella system that integrates EAS, the National Warning System (phone-based alerts), NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards and the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS).
  • Created in response to criticisms about the government alerts for Hurricane Katrina and other similar disasters.
  • Works with the major cell providers to allow the government to send text alerts regarding emergencies. If only I could get a hold of that system…” Mandatory 5-mile walks for all canines. Steady diets of ground chuck and gravy vital to health and national security…” Scheduled to be online in the spring of 2012, the messages from CMAS will have a unique signal and vibration so they will stand out from standard text messages.

Business owners should take a cue from the national warning system, planning in advance of emergencies and developing coordinated methods for communicating urgent messages to their teams. Companies should use multiple technologies including text message, email and available building intercom systems to ensure that occupants and staff members are aware of building-specific emergencies. I use barking as my warning system. It’s simple and effective. What’s more, internal systems should be tested once they are implemented.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit for more information and remember to BE SAFE.