Preventing Panic: Why Mass Communication is Vital


An emergency can happen anywhere, a business, a restaurant, even at home. But unfortunately the most common location lately are schools.

With the large number of school shootings in the past decade alone, it is a greater responsibility now more than ever for schools to keep their students and staff as safe as possible. But when a crisis situation breaks out it can be extremely difficult to notify everyone about what is happening and what the next steps should be. Without a proper means of communication generally panic breaks out, leaving everyone involved susceptible to injury or even death.

One example where this is evident was the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting where 32 people were killed and another 17 left injured. After the US Department of Education released its final FPRD, if was found that the school “failed to comply with timely warning issuance and policy provisions” stated in the Clery Act. The department then released updates to the Higher Education Opportunity Act requiring schools to “implement and summarize emergency response policies in their annual reports.” The general overall purpose of these revisions was to prevent another situation similar to Virginia Tech and attempt to save as many lives as possible through proper warning and communication.


Regardless of how many policies are implemented, there can be no way of knowing whether a crisis will occur. Even with the best tactics implemented, it may still happen. But what can be done to be as prepared as possible is to implement a mass notification system, or rather, a form of communicating to as many people as possible. Most systems can communicate through audio or video, while others can go far as emails and text messages. One such example is the Amber Alert system which sends out notifications to everyone in the area of an abduction. The small amount of information provided is short and to the point, and allows others to assist without causing mass hysteria.

While there are many different types of mass notification systems for emergencies, there are also those which can be used for non-emergencies such as weather updates or road closures. College campuses use these systems to inform students when classes are cancelled due to weather or even if the school president is there that day.


Lencore Acoustics is one such company to create a mass notification system, one which is able to tie into their current sound masking technology as well as a fire alarm panel. When designing this system, there are critical elements which must be taken into consideration.

  • Reach can be either visual or audible through a facility, and is specifically about coverage. The message you are trying to get across must be heard by 100% of the intended audience to “inform and instruct.”
  • Clarity is key in order for the intended audience to fully hear and comprehend the message which is being conveyed.
  • Redundancy through a continuous signal is the system’s ‘fail safe.’ A mass notification system must be able to notify you not only of a compromise in the system but must ensure 24/7 functionality.
  • Reporting capabilities allow the system to provide real-time notifications even if the system is tampered with, the integrity is compromised, or it falls offline. Alerts of these issues are also auto-triggered to ensure they are fixed right away.


Lencore’s n.FORM Mass Notification system is “a robust, simple-design solution that meets the requirements of NFPA 72.” This system has also achieved UL 2572 listing which allows is to interface with a Fire Alarm Control Panel (FACP) to “reinforce the fire alarm annunciation as well as take control in a non-fire emergency.” If you think about this for a minute, it really does make sense as to why it would need to connect to the fire alarm. In an emergency when the fire alarm sirens are blaring and the lights are flashing, you can barely hear yourself speak let alone an announcement telling you where to go. If the system can silence the alarm even for a minute to inform people what is happening, it could save lives and prevent injury overall.

A properly designed MNEC system ensures all intended parties hear a message clearly and can be informed and directed to safety. When designing a system some key criteria are – intelligibility, controls, prioritization, pre-recorded announcements, and even preventative maintenance. To learn more about this specific system visit our Mass Notification page or contact us at (319) 668-9500.

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