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October 25, 2007

Notification System Internal or External

Written by  Pete Ashen
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When faced with an emergency or disaster, what is your notification system? If you are a tenant in a building, what is the building notification system? Do you and your staff understand it?

If you control your building, do you have a public address system that reaches all spaces. If not, does it have the capability of expanding to all spaces. Is it on auxiliary power? Are there also bells, sirens, a whistle, or horn alarms?

Can you turn lights on and off, to gain attention, of those with hearing difficulty. Do you have a buddy system for handicapped? Do you have multilingual announcements?

How is your PA system controlled, your telephone switchboard, managers office or your safety/security office? Is your staff trained to provide notifications to your facilities and to outside emergency responders? Can you isolate the system by floor, building or department?

Will you use code phrases, (i.e. "Mr. Red call your office") to activate floor wardens, without exciting other workers and customers? Will the public or the customers hear PA systems?

Have you assigned floor wardens? Will they have special communications equipment such as pagers, two way radios, and bull horns? Are they adequately "identified" to provide credibility (vests, armbands, and hardhats)?
Is your system set up to provide floor wardens with information and they pass it on to their area? Will information come over PA systems to everyone?

What is your building plan for evacuation? In San Francisco the high-rise strategy is to have building security notify the fire floor, the floor above and below, and to evacuate down four floors via PA system.

Always have your disaster/emergency plan coordinated with both your building and fire department. Also, ask them if you need to also coordinate with police and EMS in your locality.

In the event of an after-hours emergency, do you have a plan for asking the media to have employees of "xyz corporation" call the neighboring corporate facility (such as the Sacramento office of xyz corporation) for instructions and information? Do you have branch offices that could activate and take calls?

Does your preparedness plan and employee information strategy provide proper information for employees action if they are at home, where can they call if their facility is not operational?

We tell families they should plan to have an out-of-town contact and instruct all the family members to call "Aunt Suzie" if they get separated. Who is your corporate out of town contact?

Have you reviewed your employee emergency information material? How often is your Emergency/Disaster notification list reviewed? How many copies are prepared and who is on the distribution list, such as: CEO, telephone switchboard, security, emergency planners, alternate site managers, switch board manager, etc.?

Have you talked to your telephone system provider, about alternate communication sites/systems, call forwarding or an 800 number for employees and customers? Does your telephone system have adequate auxiliary power? Are there "reset" buttons? Have you included the phone number of all pay phones at your facility in your disaster plan? The only way to get those numbers is to copy them off the phones themselves. If your phone system is knocked out, pay phones maybe your alternate communication system.

When calling pagers, it is important to know there are three types of responses. The first is a multiple beep/busy signal. The second, a one beep, is a voice pager. The third type, a three beep is a display pager, where you can dial in your phone number for a call back.

Have you done a survey of your employees to see if any are amateur "HAM" radio operators? Do they have radios at work, or in their car? Plan on integrating them into your emergency system.

Do not procrastinate, if you have a disaster plan, review it and see these "notification" ideas are included. If you do not have a plan, contact your local American Red Cross and ask for the free "Emergency Management Guide of Business and Industry" ARC 5025. This could be a starting place for you.


Pete Ashen is the Red Cross Volunteer Disaster Administrator in San Francisco, Calif.

This article adapted from V8#2.

Read 2109 times Last modified on October 11, 2012