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Why Your Organization Needs Both Visual and Auditory Emergency Alerts

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

Including Both Visual and Auditory Emergency Alerts

If you have an interview, a nonrefundable flight, or an expensive standardized test to take in the morning, chances are you’re going to set more than one alarm to make sure you wake up on time. Implementing a variety of alert types in case of emergency is crucial. The explosion of technology in the past few years has brought us numerous options for channels we can use to communicate. To ensure important messages reach the right people, industrial sites, educational institutions, commercial businesses, and government entities alike should incorporate both visual and auditory emergency alerts.

First, let’s look at some options for visual and auditory alerts. Second, let’s discuss why it’s so important to make sure your emergency alert system includes both. Third, we’ll suggest some solutions to do this effectively.

Types of Visual Alerts

Here are just a few of the options for contacting people via visual alerts.

  • Text messages. Reach people individually through text messages designed to inform them of a crisis’s inception and of what to do in response.
  • Reader boards. Display warnings and instructions on large signs in public spaces and on highways.
  • Strobe lights. Alert people of danger using bright, flashing lights.
  • Social media alerts. Send out social media alerts via Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms to inform people of crises.
  • Computer pop-up alerts. Inform people of danger using messages that appear on their computer screens.

Types of Auditory Alerts

Here are just a few of the options for contacting people via auditory alerts.

  • Public Address System. Make announcements throughout the school, plant, or city using a PA system.
  • Sirens. Break the silence with piercing loud sirens alerting people that something is wrong.
  • Phone call outs. Make people’s phones ring to tell them about the start of a crisis situation.
  • Radio alerts. Send messages through public radio stations or to dedicated Advisor Alert Radios to inform the public or workers of what to do during a crisis situation.

Reasons to Incorporate Both Visual and Auditory Emergency Alerts

  • Because your messages need to reach those with visual or auditory impairments. Approximately one billion people—15% of the world’s population—live with some type of disability, which includes those with visual or auditory impairments. Practically speaking, some individuals with auditory impairments will miss information shared over public address systems, and some individuals with visual impairments will not see, for example, flashing strobe lights.
  • Because people may simply miss one type of alert. Most people don’t live their lives in anticipation of the crisis, and it’s easy to miss things when you’re not paying attention. Someone driving along the highway is likely to see a reader board but not likely to read a text message. Someone taking a nap is unlikely to be listening to the radio but might wake up to an emergency phone call. Try to think of all the possible circumstances that might prevent a person from hearing about a crisis and plan to circumvent them.
  • Because generational or language differences could affect technology usage or message understanding. Only about half of those older than age 65 own and use smartphones. That’s why sending out visual alerts via social media is not always an effective solution for reaching this population. However, they may be more likely to check the radio for emergency information. If you only use English messages on message reader boards, those who speak other languages will not be aware that there is an emergency. However, everyone can see flashing strobe lights regardless of native language or cultural experience.
  • Technological complications. Even the most state-of-the-art system could potentially fail to send messages via any given communication channel, especially when delivery depends on uncontrollable factors like whether or not people’s cell phones are working. Given this possibility, emergency managers should always incorporate a variety of communication channels into their site’s emergency alert systems and make sure to include both visual and auditory emergency alerts.

How to Implement Visual and Auditory Alerts

  • Handpick emergency alert channels in both categories. Every company, school, site, or city is different. Taking surveys to find out which communication channels people use most or executing drills to test out which methods work best may help you decide which channels to incorporate. You could, for example, choose to send auditory alerts via sirens and radio announcements and send visual alerts via reader board and text message. If you want to discuss which options might be best to protect your people an assets, one of our emergency communication engineers would be happy to assist you. Contact us for a consultation.
  • Integrate a system that already incorporates both visual and auditory components. Some emergency communication options automatically include both alerting components. For example, CentrAlert’s Emergency Signal System includes strobe lights, sirens, and public announcements all in one. It supports UHF, VHF, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and more. Install it as a standalone feature or incorporate it into an existing infrastructure. If you have questions, please feel free to ask.

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