Because of the incidence of high-profile emergencies occurring on campuses in the last several years, administrators throughout the country are deploying third-generation emergency mass notification systems to help protect the people and property under their watch.

Many campuses are leveraging their existing Internet Protocol (IP) infrastructure to protect people and property and to bolster their emergency response strategies. Network-centric emergency mass notification transforms an existing IP network and its connected devices into a highly effective alerting system, unifying multiple communications channels.
Emergency alerts are triggered from a Web-based console from any network-connected PC (subject to authentication and granted permissions), and once activated, are disseminated across the network in the form of intrusive audio/visual messages to desktop computers, as well as mobile devices such as phones, pagers, BlackBerry devices and personal digital assistants (PDAs).

As many traditional alerting channels (sirens, telephones, public address systems, etc.) now have IP interfaces, network-centric notification systems can trigger alerts to those channels as well. From the IP network and telephony communication infrastructure to the existing fire alarm systems, network-centric alerting extends and unifies these systems under a single alert management platform.

The NFPA 72 (2010) National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code is addressing network-centric emergency mass notification, under the name Distributed Recipient Mass Notification System. The code now is addressing the multi-threat scenario by adding a risk analysis phase, in which all types of emergency situations are analyzed in order to design the best solution. The code also allows the integration of fire-alarm systems with more traditional alerting for multi-threat notification with net-centric emergency mass notification, which can augment existing fire-alarm systems for multi-threat alerting.

By leveraging the existing IP network, installation and infrastructure integration can be completed within hours or a few days. In addition, using the IP network saves an institution costs for new network backbone and the associated costs with hiring additional IT professionals and ongoing maintenance costs.

Network-centric alerting consolidates IP and traditional notification channels into a single alerting platform, helping education institutions to meet federal and state regulations and requirements such as section 508, HEA and the Cleary Act. In effect, network-centric emergency mass notification systems extend legacy life-safety systems from limited alerts to modern, third-generation, bi-directional systems capable of reaching multiple alert channels and devices, enabling a faster, safer and more effective response over traditional methods—and in a cost-effective manner.