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When Disaster Strikes: How Digital Signage can Help

by SUMMIT on March 24th, 2015

When Disaster Strikes How Digital Signage can Help

Sadly, emergency situations on American university campuses are on the rise. And consequently, state universities are some of the biggest consumers of digital signage. They are well aware of its value as an “alert system”, ensuring faculty, students, and staff are aware if an emergency situation should arise. It is a natural evolution, as the very reasons digital signage became successful among large corporations and sectors of government — the efficient sharing of time sensitive information to a large swath of people at the same time — makes digital signage an effective disaster management tool.

Getting the Message Across

California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) reportedly used their 42 in-campus digital signage display boards to alert over 13,000 students and 1,900 staff twice in the year 2014 — first, to evacuate the campus due to a possible wildfire warning, and second, to alert the students and staff about a suspected gunman. The messages sent out during both threats were clear in their intent and purpose. They were able to quickly share with both students and staff members the details surrounding the potential for danger, and inform them of the best course of action in each instance.

CSUSM’s prompt response and digital signage management is a classic example of how this technology can be best used to ensure the safety of students and employees of any institution. The ability to broadcast live feeds can be integrated in the system, giving digital signage unparalleled power in guiding people during a crisis. Even in public venues, digital signage can be used to deliver messages that can warn people and avoid greater losses during an emergency. In the case of a weather emergency, possible attacks on US soil or a domestic crisis, digital signage can be used effectively as part of a holistic communications system.

Following the Virginia Tech shooting, a number of universities both public and private invested in digital signage systems to help ensure the safety of their students, faculty and staff. In fact the Creighton University also integrated their digital signage alerts with the contact numbers of their students so that the data that they feed in their alert system automatically gets spread through texts, emails, and phone calls.

Disaster Preparedness – The Prerequisites

What you will find common between both the examples discussed above is the knowledge that a public alert system is a requirement and that it needs to be strategically positioned so that the message it provides is passed on to the right people. Investments and resources need to be directed toward installing systems and testing them.

CSUSM uses Alertus Technologies’ digital signage to override software links in the digital signage system. This allows its transformation into a multi-media emergency notification system, which then displays a full screen notification in case of emergency. This is a pre-programmed warning system which has paved the way for the use of warning systems in public institutions. Any wall-mounted alert beacons, LCD screens, LED marquees, and digital media displays automatically become a warning display system if the need arises. The usefulness of this intelligent emergency alert system has been recognized by private and public enterprises as well as military bases.

To be fully operational, the digital signage system needs to be supported by appropriate hardware and software. It is important they are configured properly to avoid errors. And they should be pre-loaded with certain messages which can be used as the first warning alerts before live feeds are broadcast. In any emergency, time is of the essence. Planning is important so emergencies are recognized and responded to in a timely manner, and all people who need to be made aware have the most up-to-date information possible. Periodic testing, back-up of the system, and work on vulnerable areas will help administrators recognize upgrade needs, and keep the system both effective and operational.

Other than State Universities, where do you think digital signage can be implemented as an emergency notification system if needed? We would love to hear your thoughts about the role digital signage could play in the safety of the people it reaches.

Photo Credit: Krasimira Nevenova via Compfight cc

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