Evaluation of the Effectiveness of a Mass Emergency Notification System


Several events on university campuses in recent years have raised awareness about the importance of effective mass emergencies notification systems (MNS). These systems are developed to deliver critical information during life threatening events. Congress created a grant program specific for purchasing mass notification technology. When a mass notification system is in place an individual or group of individuals can send out prerecorded messages or customized messages to any or all of the system's various group lists. Message delivery can be sent using text messaging, e-mail, PDAs, sirens, flashing strobes, intercoms, outdoor emergency phones, computer screen displays, cell and landline phones, and live or recorded voice announcements. Schools, universities, medical buildings, cities, law enforcement, and military have embraced such systems. Any organization can use mass notification to better their emergency management. These systems can also be used to distribute non-emergency messages such as breaking news that is of interest to students or employees. Legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to require colleges to immediately notify their students and employees when an emergency happens on campus. As recent incidents have demonstrated, minutes can mean the difference between life and death. Mass notification technology helps ensure that information is communicated, empowering students and employees so that they can take steps to protect themselves during a crisis. Students, parents, teachers, and college instructors have already embraced these systems. Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) installed an MNS to notify the campus community of emergency information via phone, email, SMS Text, and instant messaging. The Missouri S&T expanded its emergency notification system in September 2007 through a partnership between the University of Missouri and 3n (National Notification Network), the leading mass notification system provider after the incident in February 2007 at Missouri S&T. The university has since tested the system twice. This paper presents the results of the tests, issues that have been identified that affect the system's effectiveness, and recommendations for other organizations wishing to implement such systems. This paper also reviews these notification systems including a discussion and analysis of many features common in emergency notification systems. To address the issues that affect the system's effectiveness the results of two system tests conducted by Missouri S&T are analyzed. Both system test results indicate low confirmation rates although there is a slight improvement in the second test. The reasons behind this ineffectiveness are examined with an on campus survey. The survey results illustrated that even though the mass emergency notification system features are mostly recognized by students, the lack of awareness and belief in the mass emergency notification systems may be the reasons behind the low confirmation rates. Therefore, organizations should pay significant attention to both implementing the right mass emergency notification system and creating the awareness and emphasizing the importance for it.

Meeting Name

53rd Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting (2009: Oct. 19-23; San Antonio, TX)


Engineering Management and Systems Engineering

Second Department

Psychological Science

Keywords and Phrases

Computer screens; Critical information; Customized messages; Effective mass; Emergency information; Emergency management; Emergency messages; Emergency notification systems; Emergency phones; Instant messaging; Landline phones; Life and death; Message delivery; Missouris; Notification systems; Notification technology; Science and Technology; SMS text; System test; Text messaging; University campus; University of Missouri; Voice announcements; Ergonomics; Laws and legislation; Personnel; Signaling; Societies and institutions; Surveys; Telephone sets; Students

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International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

Document Version


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