Planning and developing effective emergency mass notification strategies for hazardous industrial applications in the post 9/11 era

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Overview:

Emergency mass notification for hazardous industrial processing operations has traditionally focused on audible and visual signaling devices such as sirens, horns, warning lights, beacons, public address and intercom systems. And the extent of the ability to quickly alert anyone outside the plant — including fire, police and medical first responders — was until relatively recently limited to auto-dialing telecommunications. On September 11, 2001, however, everything changed.

The horrific terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City dramatically accelerated the evolution of mass notification strategies and technologies. This has been particularly evident in the case of hazardous industrial applications, and resulted in plant safety being suddenly and inextricably interwoven with critical security and detection functions. The threat of terrorist attacks has most definitely prompted industrial plant managers to completely re-evaluate their approach to emergency mass notification — both internally and externally. And for obvious reasons, this comprehensive re-examination of mass notification requirements has had a substantial impact on facilities that process, use, store and distribute hazardous chemical materials.

Compliance with directives from government agencies is clearly one of the driving forces propelling this comprehensive re-assessment of emergency mass notification planning, systems and resources. Also at play is the subsequent proliferation of new software-driven technology riding on existing network topologies; and the deployment of seamless, multi-device, interoperable communications both within and outside the facility. Finally, there is the growing trend towards integrated systems, which in this instance encompasses the integration of disparate mass-notification devices and communication systems to achieve the highest possible levels of reliability and monitoring through redundancy and operational simplicity.

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