As a result of the digitization megatrend, we have become accustomed to looking at digital screens for information, entertainment, and education. Our brains process graphics faster than text, and our eyes are naturally attracted to motion. These three factors make digital signage for emergency messaging one of the best communication technologies available.
Despite its traditional use as a marketing and general information tool, digital signage can, and should be, re-purposed to relay potentially life-saving information during an emergency. It is highly visible and its ability to change messaging instantly makes crowd communication and rescue efforts more efficient.
Schools (K-12, college and university campuses) were the first to adopt digital signage for emergency messaging. A strategically placed digital sign and a carefully crafted message can alert the campus to danger and assist students, staff and faculty in getting to safety.
Before digital signage, schools used text/email alerts, intercoms, sirens etc. They were inexpensive and could reach off-campus constituents. They however had some glaring shortcomings.
Some of these methods were not CAP compliant or very reliable. Not everyone checks their emails regularly, and many K-12 schools do not allow students to carry or use cell phones while on campus.
And what happens to those who have not signed up for the texts or emails? Or those who have turned off their phones? What about the hearing impaired?
Those emergency alert systems also failed to address the visual component of mass communication.
Digital signage filled this gap. Our brains are visually oriented and respond rapidly to images and motion, so emergency messages displayed on digital signage will reach more people than an announcement made over the intercom.
Malls, hospitals, corporate offices, transportation services and government institutions are also starting to use digital signage as an emergency response tool.
Digital signage is one of the best visual tools for communication during an emergency.
Unlike intercoms or loudspeakers, digital signage for emergency messaging does not need to be monitored in real time. Alerts and safety instructions for emergencies such as tornadoes can be prepared ahead of time and saved in the digital signage CMS. During an emergency, the messages are activated or triggered to be displayed. This “set it and forget it” nature of digital signage frees up personnel who will needed to respond to the crisis.
Such a proactive approach also saves time. During an emergency, the response time needs to be fast. How this time is being used can be the difference between life and death. When the emergency alerts and safety instructions have been prepared ahead of time, there is more time to get people to safety.
Digital signage can also be easily and instantly updated. Most digital signage solutions are cloud-based and can be accessed from any internet-enabled computer, so operators will not be confined to a specific location in order to make updates as the emergency situation changes.
The technology also offers centralized control which expedites message consistency and timeliness. Information that can potentially save lives needs to be on time and accurate. Centralized control fulfills this requirement and also ensures that only authorized personnel have access to the emergency messages.
Digital signage for emergency messaging can be used for mass communication during dynamically changing emergency situations such as:
Digital emergency signage can use eye catching graphics to display information such as:
Digital signage is versatile and can be used for multiple applications e.g. menu boards, building directory, general information sharing, etc. When being used for emergency messaging, certain elements come into play and there are some considerations that have to be factored in. School safety officials need to consider the following:
Effective communication and crisis management during an emergency situation all comes down to preparation.
According to HigherEd TechDecisions, safety and security officials should follow these four steps when using digital signage for emergency messaging:
Remember, the primary aim of using digital signage for emergency messaging is to instantly deliver an important message to a wide-reaching audience, during a time which could be extremely chaotic.
The message has to be accurate, get to the audience quickly, be easily understood, and it needs to be communicated effectively.
Here are some of the most popular tips for using digital and video signage as an emergency response tool: