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Mass Notification System Requires More Flexibility Than Fire Alarm


While a mass notification system and a fire alarm system have similar goals — quickly warning a large number of people about an incident — they couldn’t be more different when it comes to possible uses and designs. After all, a fire alarm system has a singular purpose.

“Previously, when we used to design fire alarm systems for the building, we were only looking at one thing,” Jelenewicz says. “We were saying, ‘We detect a fire, we notify the occupants, everybody gets out of the building.’ That’s no longer the case anymore.”

Consider the Khobar Towers and Virginia Tech incidents to illustrate the differences in what a mass notification system needs to do. If Sgt. Guerrero had had access to such a system, he could have ordered evacuations before the truck exploded, which would’ve been a similar message to what a fire alarm system spreads: There’s an incident, get out. But, at Virginia Tech or other campuses where shootings have taken place, anyone not directly in the path of the gunman is told to “secure in place”: There’s an incident, don’t move.

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