Thursday, July 17, 2008

Preparing for the Unknown: Will you be ready when "It" happens?

by Guy Miasnik

Recent events have made the necessity for a reliable emergency notification system abundantly clear. The earthquake in China and the cyclone in Myanmar are just two of several recent natural disasters that struck with little or no warning.

The U.S. is not immune to such events. Hurricane Katrina revealed deficiencies in America's emergency notification and response systems. The resulting devastation from Hurricane Katrina, the cyclone and the earthquake in China are evidence of how important emergency notification can be in every society.

Natural disasters are not the only threat to safety and security. Emergency notification systems can also be critical in cases of war or military threat. Effective emergency alerting can greatly reduce the number of casualties and injuries during a crisis by addressing the confusion and misinformation that often accompanies such events.

Fortunately the last five years have seen vast improvements in emergency alert systems. This has been aided in part by the demands of the Department of Defense (DoD) for new network-centric technologies. The DoD has pioneered the adoption of commercial technologies for network-centric emergency alerting and has created mandatory regulations and instructions to comply with.

The DoD guidelines include having a network-centric emergency notification system that can reach all people through numerous devices in times of emergency, such as computers, mobile phones, land lines, PDA's (BlackBerry devices), Giant Voice systems and more. Also required is the ability to trigger alerts in times of emergency in seconds, reaching tens of thousands across an entire command population or individual wings or bases within minutes.

Best practices include having an emergency plan in place before a crisis occurs. This involves obtaining reliable contact information for all personnel and establishing emergency procedure, including the notification procedures for force protection, personnel recall and accountability.

The DoD's guidelines can be used in large-scale emergencies, such as the aforementioned natural disasters which often impacts entire nations. However emergency notification is also extremely important for organizations to implement in order to protect their personnel in times of crisis.

Emergency alert system provider AtHoc supplies the DoD with much of its network-centric emergency notification technology. AtHoc provides emergency alerting technology to defense and military organizations, government agencies, and commercial and educational organizations. For more information visit

About the Author

Guy Miasnik works for Athoc providing enterprise-class, network-centric emergency notification systems to organizations across a variety of industry sectors for physical security, force protection and personnel accountability.

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