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Emergency Notification Systems: Their Vital Role and Value for Convention Centers

Emergency notification systems serve as a crucial component of event safety, acting as a vital means of communication with event organizers, participants, and emergency responders. The OnSolve Glossary defines an emergency notification system as a tool that swiftly delivers timely and pertinent alerts to a specific group of individuals during emergencies or ongoing crisis situations. These systems are designed to quickly and effectively communicate critical information to attendees and staff.

Common Types of Emergency Notification Systems 

There are three types of emergency notification systems (ENSs) commonly used at events and event venues: mass notification systems, outdoor public warning systems, and digital signage.

Mass Notification Systems

Mass notification systems simultaneously broadcast real-time alerts and information to large numbers of individuals. According to the US Department of Homeland Security, the primary function of these systems is to swiftly notify people, whether it be through text, phone, or even email, about potential threats or emergencies, guiding them on the appropriate actions to take. Depending on the context, mass notification systems may operate on an opt-in basis, particularly for guests, where users need to actively sign up to receive notifications. In contrast, other mass notification systems automatically enroll individuals, such as employees or trusted partners. These should be considerations when creating and testing the mass notification system procedure. By ensuring proper implementation and alignment with user preferences, event spaces can optimize effectively. 

Outdoor Public Warning Systems (Public Address)

In the realm of venue and event safety, the public address (PA) system is especially useful during an emergency because of its simplicity and its broad reach. PA systems facilitate the circulation of crucial emergency notifications and updates to all individuals present at the venue or event. However, it is important to note that the PA system does have its limitations. Because it is designed to reach those within an audible range, it inevitably means that those outside of the PA’s audible range will not be part of the notification. When using a PA system, it is important to supplement it with another system that can adequately warn and alert individuals beyond audible reach.

Digital Signage

Graphic boards and digital signage are used regularly throughout events to convey event-related updates. In times of emergency, their usage extends to displaying vital notifications as well. As such, these can be used to complement PA announcements and other mass notification systems to ensure essential instructions and other crucial information gets to all attendees. By leveraging graphic boards, monitors, and other digital infrastructure, venues, and event organizers can ensure that attendees have access to the necessary information during critical situations, fostering a safer environment for everyone involved.

Why Testing Emergency Notification Systems is Crucial

Consider the following scenario: Suppose an emergency arises during the ingress period of an event. Using an ENS, a mass notification can immediately be sent to give specific instructions to inbound guests (redirecting them or potentially asking them to refrain from attending the event altogether).  Additionally, if an emergency occurs during the event, a mass notification can be sent to attendees and other stakeholders asking them to be on alert or to exit the event. 

But what if upon trying to deploy the message, the event organizers realize the ENS is not working properly? 

Outdated or malfunctioning systems can lead to confusion, delays, and even consequences during an emergency. For events and venues that utilize a large campus (a festival or convention center, for example) guests in one area of the event may not be aware of issues occurring in other parts of the campus. Here, the use of a properly functioning ENS becomes vitally important to both an event’s success and public safety. By implementing mass notifications, event organizers can bridge communication gaps and ensure that individuals in one area of the event remain informed about any issues transpiring, emphasizing overall safety and response measures

By prioritizing routine testing, event organizers and convention centers can identify any vulnerabilities or technical glitches, ensuring the system remains reliable and responsive when it matters most. Regular testing of these systems ensures they remain reliable and responsive, mitigating potential harm and saving lives. 

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