What does “fast warning activation” mean?

Another tragic and incomprehensible shooting this week…13 dead at the Navy Shipyard in Washington, DC.  One of the most disturbing facts is that this type of thing could happen anywhere.

Our phones and email have been busy already, hearing from clients and contacts wanting to talk about how they can strengthen ability to quickly warn people when unpredictable and dangerous things threaten.

We can talk about enhancements to public address systems, text messaging, building alarms, on-screen pop-ups, telephone calls, call boxes, sirens, social media and the list goes on.  But, none of these systems will work in a situation like this unless they are real fast.  And, in this case, fast means several things:

  1. Are user interfaces intuitive enough to allow quick activation when adrenalin is flowing and pressures are intense?
  2. Has activation training been sufficient to overcome the fact that these types of things don’t happen often?
  3. Do the various systems available require different activation processes?
  4. Have provisions been made for multiple activation points?  Who knows what may be happening at times like this?  The normal activation point may not be accessible at the time.
  5. Would people understand the alerts and what they are being told to do?
  6. Are the various systems capable of delivering their messages quickly, once activated?

What is the most important question to ask about emergency warning activation?

Assume you can answer “yes” to the questions above.  You’re still not there.  In fact, here’s perhaps the most important question you have to ask:  Is authority and process for quickly activating clearly established and understood?

I don’t know how much warning was given at the Navy Shipyard.  I don’t even know if it was possible to give more warning.  But, I do know that once again, we all need to asking difficult questions about whether we can warn quickly if something like this happens on our watch.


This post was originally published in Emergency Management Magazine’s Alerts and Notifications blog authored by Galain President Rick Wimberly at Emergency Management Magazine.