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Life Safety

Life Safety

Mass Notification . . . . . In the simplest of terms it is broadcasting information efficiently and reliably to a large number of people.  The information stream can be anything from keeping remotely deployed employees up-to-date with company updates and information to communicating with parents regarding school absences to emergency notification by a government agency in the event of an impending storm or other civil emergency.

The most primitive and earliest means of Mass Notification was as early as in 1692 where the village of Bedford, NY kept a paid drummer on staff, who was charged with sounding the town drum in the event of a Native American attack on the town.

Some of us can think back and recall that Mass Notification systems are not new to us.  As far back as the 1920s programs and ideas were talked about which eventually evolved to be known as the Civil Defense system in the 1950s and 1960s.  Civil Defense was most prominent during the Cold War as a result of the long time threats of nuclear attacks against the United States.  I can recall civil preparedness being drilled into our minds at school as children on what actions to take and seeking shelter.  As I write I have vivid memories of hearing that eerie sound of what was initially called air raid sirens and the frequent tests conducted.  There was a distinct sound pattern for taking cover, one for and all clear and one for the test.  As the Cold War came to an end those air raid sirens were more commonly used for a means to alert the population of approaching severe weather.  The original meaning and thought processes of emergency preparedness, fallout shelters, food stockpiling and the like became a thing of the past.  We as citizens became complacent and the majority believed that the civil emergency we trained for cannot and will not happen on our soil.

We had to face the cold facts that it will happen here as it did in 1993 when a truck full of explosives was placed under the World Trade Center North Tower in the parking garage and was intended to knock the North Tower (Tower One) into the South Tower (Tower Two), bringing both towers down and killing thousands of people.  It failed to do so, but did kill six people and injured 1,042.

Then came 911; the devastation and eventual collapse of both towers resulting in the killing of thousands.  More than 90% of survivors of the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York delayed evacuating the buildings in order to carry out tasks such as saving their work, shutting down computers, changing shoes and visiting the bathroom, according to research released today.  Interviews with 271 survivors who worked in the twin towers found that only 8.6% fled as soon as the alarm was raised. The vast majority (91.4%) stayed behind waiting for information or carrying out at least one additional task, including phoning their family and collecting belongings.  The majority put their escape back by around eight minutes, with some delayed by half an hour. People who tried to find out what was going on took between 1.5 and 2.6 times longer to respond to the alarm than those who didn’t.

The value of today’s technological advances in Mass Notification systems is based upon what was endured in the history of not only these two examples but the many attacks on military establishments trying to kill our men and women serving overseas.  One can only imagine if the death tolls would have been lessened if the systems available today could have been employed in the areas and structures on those fateful occasions.

Broadcasting information efficiently and reliably to a large number of people.

Next issue . . . . Selecting a Mass Notification System

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