Shock. Grief. Outrage. Those are some of the feelings we’ve all experienced in the aftermath of the massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Now I’d like to add “frustration” to the list.
That’s an emotion expressed by some fire installers who say they’re frustrated that school officials don’t realize how valuable an emergency communications system/mass notification system can be in situation like the one at Sandy Hook, where a young man gained entrance to the school and shot the students and staff. Adding a mass notification component to a fire system, particularly if the system already has speakers, typically is a pretty simple job. Yet many school officials are unaware such an important option exists, fire installers say.
Among those expressing frustration is Carter Rierson, president of Best Defense Security & Fire Protection, based in Waunakee, Wis. Here’s his very articulate summary of the situation:
Over the summer we installed several school fire alarm systems along with dozens of card readers and cameras for schools. No schools, however, installed an emergency communications system here in Wisconsin.
Emergency Communications Systems … are the best tool to minimize the impact of what we saw last week. Rather than luckily having heroically push an intercom to alert the building, ECS systems are designed to do EXACTLY that. The industry as a whole is just beginning to learn about these systems. Unfortunately, the school administrators, and the engineers who design fire alarm systems for them, have no idea what these systems are, how they work, and how they should be implemented in buildings such as this.
Much has been written about the “first responders”, the police officers, EMT’s, etc. In reality they were NOT the first responders. The first responders were the heroic teachers and staff members who ALWAYS respond first in a case like this. Unlike the other “first responders” who are fully equipped, very little has been done to equip the true first responders for a situation like this. ECS is the first step as it decreases the amount of time required to notify the staff and students, compartmentalizes the buildings, and automates the dispatch of the “first responders”.
The word needs to get out.
I’ll be talking more to Carter and other fire companies about what the industry can do to make sure the word does get out about ECS/MNS! Stay posted.