Demystifying Primary vs. Secondary Notification

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Emergency Mass Notification is an area that has received a great deal of attention, largely due to tragic incidents that have exposed the vulnerabilities of certain populations and environments. The need for better communications and alerting has become cluttered by Federal and State regulations that have been implemented to ensure all populations have accessibility to safety notifications. Here’s a quick breakdown that demystifies Primary vs. Secondary Notification.


The National Fire Protection Authority (NFPA) is the authority on emergency mass notification.  It dictates that primary notification must provide the transmission of visible notification and messages be simultaneous to audible notification and messages and that this notification must be immediate and intrusive.

In contrast, Distributed Recipient Mass Notification Systems (DRMNS) such as e-mail or text messaging are considered secondary (supplementary) notifications. These technologies may be good systems, but do not encompass a “survivable” design that would enable the ongoing delivery of accurate communications even if one or more parts of the system’s network are down.

DRMNS Alone Is Not Compliant

The NFPA makes clear that DRMNS such as text messaging or e-mail shall not be used in lieu of required audible and visual alerting solutions. This is due to the possibility of delivering conflicting information such as a text message directing a person to remain in place, while the EMN System in the building provides the evacuation message. If the EMN system is activated before the occupants received the message, there could be confusion.

A layered approach using an EMNS and an integrated distributed recipient notification system is considered the best solution for reaching the largest number of occupants. However, the sequence of notifications (from all systems) must be considered, and any potential delays in the transmission of communications must be minimized. For these reasons, all systems should be integrated and coordinated with a facility’s emergency plan.

The Ideal Solution

Utilizing a combination of audible and visual notification devices, such as strobes, voice communications (indoor and outdoor speakers) and programmable LED signage is seen as the most intrusive solution for capturing the attention of occupants and delivering a clear, audible message. Many campuses share the challenge of how to alert faculty/staff, students, and visitors throughout sprawling facilities in the absence of an in-building public address system. Today, most Districts have a common social media platform that communicates with staff, students, parents and administrators, along with texting and other digital communication. The problem is how to deploy these platforms quickly, in a coordinated effort to keep everyone – including first responders – informed of current events.

Global CTI’s ACTIVATE – One Touch Emergency Notification System is designed to help overcome this challenge. It complements your distributed recipient outcall notification system to ensure effective timely warnings when personal cell phones are turned off or encounter severe latency due to tower congestion, or simply when emails may go unseen. ACTIVATE is powered by the nation’s leading provider of 911 communications. Collaborate in real time with 9-1-1 dispatchers, police, fire, and paramedics, sharing important information across every campus so that everyone is on the same page. 

To learn more, call us 800-366-1711 or visit our website.


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