From no where, there now are a score of sources of mass notification systems – almost as many as means through which they communicate. Pioneered in colleges, schools and military bases, corporations and healthcare facilities as well as entire towns and cities are catching the mass notification wave.

The April issue of Security Magazine features an update on the technology.

The best definition of mass notification is a means to notify occupants of a building or area in a real-time setting. A primary command center broadcasts live or pre-recorded emergency voice and data messages and/or instructions. The overall aim is to get accurate and useful information out to people who need it. The trick is to use enough types of means of communication to get the word out to most everyone. There are systems that work with existing fire alarm systems and emergency telephone systems. Others play off of cellular telephones, instant messaging and smartphones as well as audio broadcast, strobes, computer displays and even LED-enabled billboards.

Many police departments have a kind of mass notification called reverse 9-1-1. And some systems help end-users create a revenue strem through ads and posting in a non-emergency broadcast.

One example: MIR3’s technology approach enables two-way, interactive communication across any device — cell phone, land line, e-mail, fax, text message, TTY, desktop, and more — to ensure messages are delivered at any time, to any where. Message distributors can program a variety of response options for recipients’ choosing, such as instant call bridging, first responder communication, verification of safety and message receipt, recorded response features, and more. Additionally, messages can be delivered in a recipient’s language and local dialect for full international communication capabilities.

When Air Liquide invested $200 million last October to expand its Gulf Coast hydrogen system, a system that minimizes sulfur content in automotive fuels to reduce pollutants and process heavy crude into useable fuels, the demand was driven from strict environmental regulations on refineries, which were being progressively introduced around the world.

Problem: Today, the 9-million-barrel-a-day Gulf Coast refining market is not only hard-pressed to become green, but is facing the reality of $4-per-gallon gas at the pump - a price that could only sky rocket if bad weather hits the Gulf Coast and the refineries are unprepared. Air Liquide and its affiliates' need for a mass notification system was two-fold: 1) A way to alert all 4,000 employees of emergency situations, ensure their safety, and inform them of potential work changes; and 2) a system that could accommodate ongoing, daily communication to 200 oil refinery customers throughout the pipeline, for basic business continuity and enterprise purposes.

Solution: Air Liquide called upon MIR3 to enable a mass, two-way, "intelligent notification" tool that would work in seconds, via text messaging, e-mail, voicemail, pager, fax, landline, and TTY (for the hearing impaired). Understanding Air Liquide's critical communications needs, MIR3 presented a solution to support both its human resource and client notification objectives. From a corporate perspective, inEnterprise® was put in place and enabled Air Liquide to stay in continuous contact with its 4,000 employees during inclement weather conditions and business disruptions—regardless of their geographic location. With the new system, Air Liquide IT managers could not only notify employees, but gather their responses in real time to determine who needed what, and where. Additionally, the process of communicating with Air Liquide's oil refinery client base was drastically improved. The company now has the ability to contact clients more quickly and efficiently, while also having the additional capability to sort and prioritize which clients need to be reached first in a matter of seconds. Moreover, recipient delivery is now reported, verified and authenticated. With MIR3's system now in place, Air Liquide stays in constant communication with refineries and employees on weather conditions and daily operations. This allows more time for an emergency plan to be implemented, preventing damage to platforms and disruptions in oil collection when a storm. In addition, all 4,000 of Air Liquide's employees can instantly communicate with their 200 refinery customers across a variety of channels, ensuring overall business continuity remains steady - in skies both cloudy and clear.