Beyond Paging, Public Address Systems: an Emergency Communications Solution

When you hear the words “public address system,” do you think “Please stand for the Pledge of Allegiance” or “Blue light special in aisle 5”? Today’s PA systems are so much more than that. 

Previously, an alarm would simply mean “evacuate,” but today’s environment is increasingly complicated, and alarms must be accompanied by information and directions.

That’s where the PA system comes in.  The Public Address System is an essential part of a coordinated, multilayer, comprehensive crisis management system.  Here are some of the latest features you’ll find in today’s PA systems:

Visual and Auditory Information

The latest Public Address Systems provide expanded visual and auditory communication capabilities which are necessary for effective crisis management within a group of people:

Visual Elements

  • Flashing lights, electronic display readers, even visual alarms on laptops and mobile devices ensure that each occupant’s attention is captured.
  • Designed for use in areas where loud ambient noise levels may prohibit emergency announcements from being heard.
  • Immediate ability to type a message on a keyboard and display it across all devices.

Auditory Elements

  • Both auditory alarms and actual verbal communication with directions and information can be broadcast.
  • Pre-recorded audio messages can be delivered at the touch of a button.

Expanded Features and Functions

Facilities large and small require expanded features and functions to adapt to the increasingly complex environment:

Hands-Free Communication

  • Built-in microphones enable users to be physically distant from the communication device while still being able to communicate via open voice.

Two-way Communication

  • In addition to communicating out to a group of people, today’s Mass Notification systems also enable communication back to a central station – whether that is a teacher calling an office, or a student pressing a panic alarm.

Tamper-Resistant Listening Devices

  • Leveraging the same loudspeaker device mounted in the ceiling, central stations now have the ability to use that same loudspeaker as a covert listening device for any location. These devices are designed to be tamper-resistant, unobtrusively installed, and not easily accessible.

Simultaneous Notification

  • Particularly useful in emergencies, central station, local authorities, and internal staff can ALL be notified at the same time.

Highly-Accessible User Interfaces

  • Easy-to-understand, one-touch options enable any building occupant to communicate an urgent situation, whether they’re 6 or 60. Multiple interface points such mobile devices, tablets, or laptops create a multi-layer environment for increased ability to notify staff of a situation, as opposed to a single wall phone that is typically located near a door.

Systems Integration

  • Integration with building access control and fire systems ensure a coordinated response at the touch of a button.

Visual Display Communication

  • Visual displays can be located in common areas to ensure that people in transit are equally informed and can take action. They also enable occupants who are hearing-impaired to receive adequate information.

Mobile Connectivity

  • Mass notification systems connect with mobile devices to enable alarm initiation from the mobile device and also to communicate information such as where an incident has occurred.

System Implementation

Whether you have an existing PA system that needs upgrading or a completely new installation, the implementation process can be both seamless and affordable.

  • For legacy systems, often existing infrastructure can be leveraged as a backbone for the new system, and migration paths can be outlined enabling a timed approach to allow for annual budget allocations.
  • For new installations, both wireless and hardwired solutions are available and appropriate, depending on your unique circumstances.

The best path forward is to leverage a systems integrator, such as CM3, to obtain a complimentary system assessment and proposal.