Mass notification and risk analysis: Readers favor doing your homework

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

YARMOUTH, Maine—Designing and installing mass notification systems is a growing segment of the security and fire market. But is it really worth conducting a risk analysis before starting a project, or is it just a waste of time and resources?

Security Systems News posed that question in a monthly poll and found that most readers—nearly three-quarters of those who responded—said that risk analysis was a valuable and even essential part of the process.

The non-scientific survey of 55 readers in May and June found that 74 percent of installers said risk analysis was valuable because it prevented overdesign and led to more-satisfied clients. Seventeen percent, however, said it was time-consuming and didn’t really make much difference in the end.

Comments provided by respondents were unanimously in favor of risk analysis, however, with the opinions summed up by this reply: “Doing a risk analysis in any security operation is a no-brainer. You need to know what can impact on maximizing your end objective to design/develop a cost-efficient system.”

Ralph Earl, president of Ralph F. Earl Associates Inc. of Bryn Mawr, Pa., said effective, cost-efficient and reliable communications systems need “realistic” risk analysis that is unique to the coverage area and performed by knowledgeable professionals.

“In emergency situations, the failure of risk analysis and planning immediately presents itself through equipment failure [and] poor performance, and results in a lack of clear, reliable communications among key units, personnel and other end users,” he wrote.

Dave Twining, manager of field and marketing support for GE Security Canada, agreed that taking a one-size-fits-all approach to sites and end users is not in the best interest of anyone involved.

“Risk analysis is key to what type of responses are needed,” he said. “Every site has different risks and different modes of communication needed to get the message to the right people. It all needs to be planned out.”

Ideally, the planning should extend beyond the initial phase of the project to handle the changing world of mass notification, said reader David Muklewicz.

“A properly done risk analysis and emergency response plan gives the end user a better chance of actually getting the system that they need to respond to situations,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, many people think this is a one-time function while it actually needs to be an ongoing process, as the threats and the methods of dealing with them are constantly evolving.”