Education Initiative: Mass Communications for Schools

Cablepedia_Safe-and-Secure

Your campus – be it a sprawling university or a rural school with a much smaller footprint – needs some means of communicating with everyone at once.

Whether it’s an announcement about a schedule change, relocation of an event or, most critically, an emergency, being able to spread the message quickly and intelligibly is imperative.

What is Mass Communication?

In a nutshell, mass communication is the ability to communicate whatever it is you need to say to your entire student and teacher population, en masse.

With advances in network technology, mass communication endpoints can actually be integrated into your classroom tech to create a more enriched learning environment.

Moreover, since those endpoints are generally capable of two-way communication, like an intercom, it creates a more open platform. A distinction that makes a mass communication system far more suitable for a school/campus environment.

Nowadays, an effective mass communication system incorporates both audio and visual cues like text and flashers to deliver messages that are ADA compliant.

You can look at it as the confluence of IT, security and audiovisual technology.

Crucially, because it’s a pay as you grow platform there’s no requirement to throw out viable pieces of existing equipment. Instead, you’d simply install the most critical elements and interface them with your legacy systems where it makes sense, making mass communication systems an affordable option.

On-premises vs Off-premises

Think of this as the reach of your messaging.

On-premises or on-prem are those notifications that are limited to the campus or school itself and don’t reach students, faculty, staff, etc. beyond the confines of that area. This would include speaker systems, digital signage and things of that nature.

Off-premises or off-prem are notifications that extend beyond the borders of the school that can be sent to cell phones, for example. Messaging of this type is directly analogous to the push notifications you get on your mobile device from various apps.

Broadly speaking, every part of your premises should be covered by a mass communication (or mass notification) system. Hallways, classrooms, stadiums, outdoor walkways, on-campus fields, etc.

Headends and Endpoints

The basic components of any system are its headend and the endpoints. There’s plenty more in between but for the sake of keeping this on topic, understanding these two parts is what’s important.

A headend is what controls a mass communication system. It’s the centralized hardware and software that houses the intelligence and where you set up the behavior, notifications, tones, etc.

Your message can originate from a mobile/VoIP phone or computer to the endpoints but how it goes out will be set up via the headend in advance.

An endpoint is where your message is sent to and disseminated from, certain types of endpoints like speakers can function as an intercom and communicate back. An IP endpoint is one that’s connected to your schools’ network.

Endpoints can be things like single- or double-sided LED/LCD screens, speakers with flashers & talkback mics, weather-resistant speakers for outdoors and more.

Generally speaking, endpoints can work with all types of headends.

IP endpoints are security facing, IT facing and AV facing, which is to say that a mass communication system isn’t necessarily solely for emergencies. Audiovisual technology is meant to enhance the learning experience and an integrated mass communication system can actually be utilized for instructional purposes as well.

Given that and with respect to intelligibility, it’s important to not let your speaker systems get to a state of disrepair. They degrade differently than other tech and it’s not an on-one-day, off-the-next type of scenario. Speakers will continue to work but the intelligibility declines and you only notice the difference when you compare it to a new speaker.

We’ve all been to airports or maybe a subway where you can’t understand a word of an announcement. The speaker technically “works” but to what end?

Ultimately though, safety and security are paramount in your schools and a robust and trustworthy mass communication system is imperative, let alone legally required, for delivering the messages your students need, when they need it.