Oh No! Not Another Emergency Notification System: 2020 Rave Summit Recap

In October, Rave Mobile Safety hosted the 2020 Rave Virtual Summit, our first-ever virtual event that brought together critical communications and safety experts across industries to share best practices, innovative strategies, and important lessons learned about keeping their organizations and communities safe and informed both during emergencies and day-to-day operations.

Denette Lilly, Communication Center Supervisor for the Wake Forest University Police Department, led a session titled “Oh no! Not Another Emergency Notification System.” Lilly, who has extensive experience in public safety and communication after working as a Communication Training Officer, Chief of Police, and Emergency Dispatcher, explained the criteria necessary for choosing an emergency notification system.

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The session covered what to look for in a mass notification system, use cases or testing strategies for mass notification, and best practices for telecommunicator training. 

Why Wake Forest University Chose Rave Mobile Safety Solutions? 

First, Lilly explained initially why Wake Forest University ultimately decided to go with our mass notification and collaboration solutions:

  • Wake Forest University knew that their previous system was inefficient after it failed during a crisis situation, with the team unable to send out messages to faculty, staff, and students, with alerts taking approximately 40 minutes to reach stakeholders. 
  • The previous system did not have enough ports to get the message out to faculty, students, and staff; the college looked at acquiring more ports for that system, but it would have been a costly update. This led the school to research other systems and ultimately to choose Rave. 
  • Rave Alert was much easier to use than the previous system - with just 1, 2, 3 steps, administrators are able to send the message to all relevant stakeholders.
  • Rave offered a much more affordable system and had the potential to link other emergency systems - such as a physical alarm system - with the emergency alert technology.

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Why Didn’t Other Systems Measure Up for Wake Forest University? 

Lilly then expressed a few reasons why other mass notification solutions simply did not measure up and meet the needs they were looking for. 

  • Other systems were too costly for what was offered and charged extras for add-ons such as social media or voice calls. 
  • The other systems were not as robust or reliable.
  • The messages could not be delivered in multiple modes, such as social media, voice, text, and email.
  • Other systems are too expensive and had slower delivery times for alerts.
  • Many emergency alert systems didn’t have the capability to link up with other systems.  

How To Transition Employees To a New Emergency Alert System  

Lilly noted that many communications officers did not want to change to a new emergency alert system, and she had to get creative to make these workers comfortable. There are several different learning styles and it’s important to figure out how best to teach staffers protocol. 

Lilly offered several innovative ideas to help employees learn how to use the new system, including: 

  • Emails to all Communications Officers with scenarios to use within the mass notification system. 
  • Pick a Card Scenarios - workers receive scenarios, either on a computer or written out manually - whether it’s a robbery or weather-related emergencies - and that’s their hypothetical scenario to learn how to respond to using the system.
  • Teach workers how to avoid abbreviations, misspelled words, or improper grammar by sending them alerts with a correction needed and having them identify the mistake. If a worker does send out a message with an error, it’s not necessarily a big deal but it is best to inform them of the mistake. 

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Best Practices For Daily Tests

  • Create a preset template for the daily test.
  • It should be mandatory for all telecommunicators to conduct a daily test; check daily log to ensure everyone is following such protocol. 
  • Check weekly to ensure that all telecommunicators are doing their daily test. 
  • All test messages must start with the phrase: "TEST MESSAGE ONLY".

Train, Train, Train 

It’s imperative to continue to train your staff on a mass notification solution. Below are several best practices for training staff: 

  • Keep everyone informed of new updates or features to the emergency communication system. 
  • Let everyone know why certain steps or protocols are followed.
  • Explain what templates are and why templates are important to use.
  • Ensure all users feel comfortable with the technology. 
  • Provide frequent refreshers on sending notifications out.
  • Create your own step-by-step instructions that combine the mass notification instructions with your own institutions individual needs.

To watch the full session, click below! 

Universal - 2020 Rave Summit Session Oh No

Mary Kate McGrath
Mary Kate McGrath

Mary Kate is a content specialist and social media manager for the Rave Mobile Safety team. She writes about public safety for the state & local and education spheres.

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