In the business world, time is money. But in other areas of our lives, we know time is more than money. During a crisis, saving lives often comes down to saving time: time in responding, communicating, and making decisions. This holds when there’s a fire, a violent crime, a major weather event, a medical emergency, or an act of terror. Immediate access of information for emergency officials sets them up to respond rapidly and decisively and often means the difference between life and death.
THE BRAIN UNDER PRESSURE
Different people react differently to crisis. Most people are quite resilient but findings suggest that individuals are likely to exhibit both productive AND unproductive responses. During a crisis, people frequently experience anxiety; fear, confusion, and disbelief. The fight or flight reflex kicks in causing some to become paralyzed rather than taking action. For those do respond and act, their actions may be inefficient or chaotic, and there is a reason why. “They’re trying to find a plan on how to react, but cognition becomes difficult because your limbic systems aren’t working properly,” says Russell Shilling, Chief Scientific Officer for the American Psychology Association.
The limbic system is involved in motivation and memory. Pre-occupied with physical and emotional survival, recalling routines and details prove challenging for everyone except those highly experienced and properly trained in response procedures. Science Journalist, Zaria Gorvett wrote in 2017 that “most people are slow to move or to do anything when they’re in high-stakes circumstances. External systems may need to help guide an individual’s next steps”.
KISS: KEEP IT SUPER SIMPLE
If psychological data points to slow or no action when confronted by a crisis, and speed is critical, how do we overcome this “human response” hurdle? One of the best ways is by automating and streamlining processes and accelerating real-time communication. Quicker systematic reaction translates to a higher quality of care, limited injuries, and more lives recovered. Ultimately though, emergency planning must give sufficient consideration to the people it affects. The selected plan and technology utilized for crisis management and response must work seamlessly FOR the people. It must be familiar, intuitive, and simple to use.
Are you aware that people are prepared for fires more than any other emergency event? We’ve grown up with red fire alarm pull stations located throughout schools, apartment buildings, and every building we enter. They are everywhere, which increases our familiarity and improves our response time for fires when they happen.
Rapid response security systems can be equally as functional and reliable, and just as easy to use. Familiarity and ease of use would then allow building occupants to focus on WHEN to use the system, and not HOW to use it. Once a pull station is activated, the emergency response system would do the work of alerting, informing, communicating, and directing people to safety.
THE VALUE OF SPEED
- Response Time: Shortened response & reaction time is a joint effort. Both a sender and receiver need to act & respond rapidly. Shaving a few seconds along the way can lead to saved minutes resulting in vastly different outcomes. FBI stats show that 69% of active shooter incidents are over in less than 5 minutes and equate to one person being shot every 15 seconds. In a medical emergency, the average response time for EMS personnel is 7 minutes. Every 1-minute delay, whether by the caller, dispatcher, or responder equates to an 8-17% increase in mortality rate.
- Communication Time: The CDC states that how people respond to communications in a crisis is unique: “People simplify, and first messages carry the most weight”. Clarity, brevity, and timeliness are key. When communicating with building occupants during an emergency, it’s best to provide a few simple steps and give clear & concise directives. Some of the most important questions to immediately answer are: What is happening, and what should be done? Proactive and clear communications help instill confidence through an emergency.
- Decision-Making Time: Smart and effective decisions occur when people are well informed, empowered, and prepared. While clarity and brevity are vital for an immediate response, MORE information leads to smarter decisions and LESS anxiety through a crisis. You can minimize the unknowns by providing relevant unsolicited information. When decision-makers, first responders, and building occupants are provided with real-time intelligence as quickly as possible, everyone benefits.
A TRUE LIFE-SAFETY APPROACH
Life Safety planning requires humans to anticipate possibilities and plan for vulnerabilities. Ahead of any incident, safety officers or administrators should establish protocols for expedience. pre-define triggers, alarms, and alerts based on potential incidents. Contact groups should be created with segmentation based on how much information must be shared with each segment. Pertinent Information may vary for first responders, organizational leaders, and building occupants.
- Simple activation: Occupants should know how to use familiar pull stations, and should be conditioned to do so regardless of whether it’s red for fire or blue for police. High visibility staff might consider wearing convenient mobile pendants. People moving around the building can immediately activate the system if they see a problem. A single automated step should generate a series of actions such as simultaneously initiating rapid police response and executing internal communications and precautions.
- Immediate & Redundant Notification: Panic Alarms directly connected to local law enforcement provide faster response times over phone calls to 911 in a non-fire evacuation, lockdown, or active shooter situation. Computer and smartphone notifications need to be timely and consistent and should be reinforced with building-wide audio & visual notifications. Redundant alerts and communications via strobe lights and audio messaging help to reduce confusion. Strobe lights reinforce messaging especially in high noise areas and outside buildings. Electronic and audio communications might include response protocols (lockdown, evacuate, run-hide-fight, etc…) and assurances that police are on their way.
- Information & Communication: Real-time site intelligence, including visual maps of the facility indicating the location of the activated pull station as well as other incident communications, is critical for first responders and organizational leaders. The system should automatically initiate communication between building occupants & first responders and equip staff and occupants with additional information for better, faster decisions. This can be done through 2-way communication and location/reunification features. Individuals should be able to receive instruction from leadership and respond with pictures, location, injuries, status (I’m ok, need help, etc.). Automated notification by occupants to Police and Administrators gives immediate situational awareness in a crisis.
- Integration & Centralization: Emergency notification solutions should integrate with both internal communication and security systems. For example…audio and visual notifications will likely tie back to public address systems. A building-wide lockdown relies on access control systems, while security camera feeds provide real-time intelligence for first responders and building leaders. System information should be pushed into the hands of emergency officials via secure internet links. Command & Control portals should have access to site maps, floor plans, room and door numbers, camera locations, and emergency procedure documents.
OUR RECOMMENDED SOLUTION
BluePoint Alert Solutions is a comprehensive life safety solution bringing together the technology, systems, policies, and procedures that significantly improve crisis preparedness. With BluePoint, building occupants & first responders are equipped to make faster and more informed decisions for better outcomes.
Immediate notification systems are shown to work in a crisis. BluePoint enhances crisis management efforts because it is familiar, intuitive, and simple. When the situation is uncertain, you can have confidence in faster police response, faster building occupant response, improved leadership communication. These rapid responses and improved communications will minimize the problems, address public safety concerns, and save lives.
CM3 Building Solutions are experts at deploying BluePoint Alert Solutions and can help you integrate your existing building infrastructure to improve your communications and response times in the event of a crisis.