Much of today’s security philosophy focuses on the idea of prevention. School, church, hospital, public and commercial facility and security managers are taking a proactive approach to security by deploying access control, perimeter security and other measures. However, the unfortunate truth is that despite this approach, emergency situations like armed intruder scenarios still occur. In these instances, it is necessary to focus on the next step in security: the response times of law enforcement or first responders and building occupants.

The need for faster response times from law enforcement and first responders is highlighted in this 2008 study from the U.S. Department of Justice (p. 116). It found that response times, in situations of violence or other serious emergencies, averaged 5-10 minutes. Standing alone, those numbers are not poor; however, when taking into account the time that it takes to actually reach 911 dispatch, those 5-10 minutes could be tacked on to the previous 10 minutes that it took to contact first responders. Speeding that response time is a priority in crisis situations; the first five minutes are critical as the situation escalates. Rapid Emergency Response Systems (RERS) are designed to force security managers and CSOs to think through potential crisis situations thoroughly and examine the tools on the market that can effectively help – from prevention to scenario response. From an implementation standpoint, a RERS is a complementary security measure that should fit well with all other preventative measures already in place making for a fully-integrated system.

While a Rapid Emergency Response System can be easily integrated into an existing system, on its own, it is not a traditional security system. It is not perimeter security system; it does not utilize access control technology; it is not a mass notification system. Each one of those components can be implemented into a facility’s overall security system to aid in the protection of the building’s occupants, but none of those pieces solves the need for rapid law enforcement and building occupant notification. They are pieces of a larger puzzle.

A key consideration for CSOs and facility managers looking at the viability of a RERS is the system’s ability to integrate into  two-way communications platform.  Today, there are Web-based communication platforms that act as a command and control center – a “hub” between the building and facility stakeholders, law enforcement and building occupants. This capability is highly customizable, making it a focused notification system, rather than a mass notification system. The command and control center notifies chosen stakeholders via automated text, email and voice notifications of the situation and instructs them regarding which emergency protocol procedures to take. The Command Group can securely access the communications portal via any Internet-enabled device, establishing a secure, two-way communication that coordinates first responders, communicates with occupants and manages the overall situation quickly and efficiently.

Similarly, a system installed in a facility needs to have intuitive touch points. In a commercial setting, a system needs to be visually intuitive for daily building occupants and visitors alike.  Some of these systems feature a pull station, similar to a traditional “fire alarm,” so that it is visually familiar, the operation of which is already ingrained in the minds of building occupants. This is important for many types of facilities, including churches, schools, malls and corporate locations. Some of these areas, like malls and churches, where most occupants and building users are untrained, rely on visual intuition for the successful activation in the event of an emergency. For the visually and/or  hearing impaired, a RERS can include several blue strobe lights – not to be confused with the red strobe lights of the fire alarm system – throughout the building that flash to alert occupants that a crisis situation is taking place and to engage in emergency protocols or personal protection.

Budgets can be a concern for CSOs and facility decision-makers, and identifying a solution that can be easily implemented, without sacrificing quality or additional security concerns is necessary. Like many of the newer security tools on the market, wireless capability means no substantial retrofitting, therefore cutting the cost of implementation considerably. In schools and churches, cost can be the ultimate prohibitive factor, and a true RERS has components that are fully customizable and easy to move around a building, if necessary, which means low recurring, costs.

When combined, these aspects of a Rapid Emergency Response System provide a solution to a problem that many CSOs and security directors are scrambling to solve: what to do when preventative measures have been breached? A system designed to speed the response time of law enforcement and first responders significantly as well as immediately notify building occupants to take precautions can be the final difference in mitigating a crisis scenario and saving lives.