emergency response

Mass notification systems in high-rise buildings

Top technologies for effective emergency response
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
by Taleen Merjanian

When an emergency situation arises in a multi-residential setting, things can turn chaotic fast. To prevent this chaos, all residents, visitors and staff need to know what to do and how to react immediately. The most effective way to accomplish this is with a customized, real-time mass notification system.

Mass notification systems enable faster and more accurate response because they incorporate both audible and visual alerts in order to share potentially life-saving information. When integrated into existing building infrastructure, along with pertinent policies, procedures and operations, this layered approach to emergency communication brings a number of different technologies together to form a comprehensive and effective solution.

In addition to ensuring the safety for residents, many apartment facilities are required by law to abide by firm building code requirements and regulations. In Canada alone, high-rise apartment buildings (and apartment facilities with a specified number of residents) are required to install voice enabled fire safety systems. Many buildings are also required to install audio systems loud enough to reach residents right in their bedrooms. Integrating emergency communication technology helps an apartment facility ensure compliance with strict regulations and building codes.

Where to begin

To help apartment facilities work together as a unified whole, it’s important to match the building’s needs with the most effective technologies. As a first step, property owners should assess risks, establish priorities and identify current strengths and weaknesses based on existing infrastructure, applicable codes and protection needs. Some apartment buildings, for example, may have sound systems already in place that can broadcast appropriate messages during emergencies. In this case, owners could take advantage of the building’s standing systems in order to cut unnecessary costs and installation time.

Top mass notification system technologies

From emergency voice systems to visual displays, mass notification systems implement technologies that warn occupants about threats and prompt them with the most appropriate response depending on the situation and their location.

The following provides an overview of top mass notification technologies that can be used to protect apartment residents, visitors and staff in the event of an emergency:

Direct communication

If a staff and resident contact database is well-maintained, phone and text communication can provide timely and relevant details to apartment building occupants, by instructing them to shelter in place or move to a different floor of the facility, depending on the threat.

Visual signage

Interior text messaging boards can be mounted in high traffic areas of an apartment facility to broadcast live or recorded visual messages and alerts. Messages can be tailored to specific apartment buildings, floors and apartment suites, and are especially useful for the hearing impaired. These systems can be particularly useful in apartment common areas such as exercise rooms and lobbies.

TVs and video screens can also serve as channels for sharing essential information, in addition to their primary entertainment purpose. These devices are often found around elevators and in lobbies, as well as within residents’ suites, and can be used as efficient communication tools in the event of an emergency.

Voice communication systems

Whether through automated or live updates, apartment facilities should have the ability to deliver universal or individual messages tailored to specific areas, buildings, floors, and rooms for a completely customized approach.

In addition, voice communications systems should have the ability to broadcast messages in multiple languages, which can be helpful in areas with bilingual populations to ensure all residents can understand and react to clear direction in the event of an emergency.

Managing an emergency

Additional “occupant” registration and tracking systems can be implemented to allow first responders to easily determine who has evacuated and who may still be at risk. This is often handled through muster point information systems to tabulate who is present and who is missing during an emergency event.

Bringing it all together: customizing your system

It’s important to customize a real-time emergency notification system — audible and visual notifications, as well as text displays — to share life-saving information inside and outside your apartment building.

Implementing a comprehensive mass notification system with consideration to careful planning, installation and integration will provide a reliable solution that can help protect residents’ lives and property from potentially catastrophic events.

Taleen Merjanian is the corporate marketing manager at Tyco Integrated Fire & Security, Canada. For more information on how your apartment building can build an integrated mass notification system, visit https://www.tycoifs.ca/en/how-we-can-help/protect-your-business/sound-and-communication/emergency-communication.



1 thought on “Mass notification systems in high-rise buildings

  1. Are there any measures in place against misuse of these systems?
    For example, my condo decided to announce things like parking cleaning via the emergency communication system, which I find completely inappropriate. Are they allowed to do so?

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