5 Things to Know About Wireless Emergency Alert Systems

You know these systems are easy to install and add an extra layer of security to hospital and school campuses, but here are a few facts you may not know.

As mass notification emergency communication (MNEC) discourse and investments increase, mobile duress panic alarms are gaining steam as an additional layer of security for hospitals and schools.

These buttons are often with the staff at all times, and one touch can signal the campus’ emergency response procedures. Unfortunately, a need for this kind of technology at campuses across the country is on the rise.

Here are five little-known facts about these system you may not have realized.

They Integrate with Other Security Systems

Mobile duress pendants are not simply standalone devices. They can be integrated with a school or hospital Physical Security Information Management (PSIM) system, Video Management System (VMS), access control, mass notification system, infant abduction or even a fire detection system.

In the typical scenario, the pendants are tied to a particular individual. When the alarm is activated, that information can be cross referenced against a doctor’s, nurse’s or teacher’s assigned location at that particular time of day using the access control system so safety officials can respond accordingly.

Related: 1st Active Shooter Emergency Notification System Installed in Mass. School

In most cases, hospitals and schools don’t have a safety official monitoring video feeds and access control swipes at all times of the day. However, in most cases the pendants are not assigned to particular individuals, and in a lot of ways it does not really matter. The idea is to simply initiate a local alarm or turn on/off lights when integrated with the intrusion system, or send SMS texts via the facility’s mass notification system.

Devices Can Be Adapted for Fixed Use

While the primary use for wireless devices is as a personal mobile device, the units can be adapted into fixed towers for parking lots and other key locations.

Wireless Range is Very Powerful

When people think about wireless, Wi-Fi comes top of mind. But mobile duress devices are built on a separate, much more powerful wireless technology. Inovonics, which calls its offering an Enterprise Mobile Duress (EMD) system, uses Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS) technology that moves the signal among various portions of the 900 to 928MHz unlicensed frequency band.

Using strategically deployed transceivers mounted throughout a facility, the company’s battery powered repeater mesh network is capable of covering a large amount of geography indoors and outdoors. Outdoors with no obstructions, the signals can travel up to one mile. Indoors, it varies greatly based on obstacles in the facility.

Integrators use field survey kits to determine the proper distance to ensure coverage. The general rule of thumb is a repeater should be installed every 50,000 to 75,000 feet indoors.

Related: Physical Security Market, Worth $88 Billion by 2019?

False Activations are Rare

While false activations of emergency panic alarms are possible, they are rare. The biggest element to mitigate false alarms is training, but many schools prefer to have their staff err on the side of safety versus hesitate to activate an alarm. However, there are options for two-button pendants in which the button is typically recessed in a way that it is difficult to activate accidentally.

They Curb Bullying

If a K-12 school already has a video surveillance system, mass notification and an access control system with a secure entry/exit vestibule, why would it need a mobile duress panic alarm system also? Of course, these systems add another layer of protection for the worst-case scenario: the active shooter incident.

No doubt, mobile panic alarm can assist in initiating a lockdown and getting children out of harm’s way so the police can respond. That is the biggest priority. But the devices can also serve a preventive purpose in curbing bullying. According to Craig Dever, vice president of sales at Inovonics, these devices, when deployed properly, can help detect a fight in the lunchroom.

“Indeed, bullying can lead to an active shooter incident, like what happened at Columbine,” Dever notes.