Best Laid Plans: Why a Comprehensive Building Identification System is Critical to Safety and Security
Do you know where to go if there is a dangerous scenario at your facility? Do you know the safest place to hide, or where to go for protection if a disaster occurs? If there’s a fire, do you know where the nearest extinguisher is? If first-responders or police had to enter your building, would they know how to locate where they needed to be, and where the route that allowed them to arrive as quickly as possible would be located? These are all important questions for which facility managers, school administrators, parents, students, employees, police, and first-responders need answers. One of the best ways to ensure they have those answers, is to work with key individuals to create a strong, and easily understood building identification system.
What is a Building Identification System, and Why is it Important?
A building identification system is the process by which you identify and mark all important areas of your building. While this may seem simple to some, the practice of effectively demarcating different sections of a building, or buildings, installing clear, identifiable indicators for rooms and objects in those buildings, and then creating documents, images, videos, and plans to provide to law enforcement and first-responders in the case of an emergency, is not always as straightforward as one may believe. An effective system becomes especially critical in the event of an emergency or threat scenario because first-responders must have the ability to quickly locate threats or individuals in danger. By providing first-responders with this information, we create more time for them, and less time for a threat. In any dangerous scenario, time can be our best friend, or worst enemy, and it is the job of a well-thought-out system to ensure time is on our side.
As anyone who has attempted to work with multiple groups and develop a system of any kind, especially one dealing with building security and the safety of its occupants can tell you, creating a system such as this is not always easy. Varying opinions on why, when, and how these systems should work are vast. Everyone in the decision-making group surely has the safety of all building occupants in mind, so why is it difficult? The answer is often as varied as the question. Traffic patterns, room security, potential hazards and obstacles, item location and position, and more, all affect the process of designing any identification system. One key point that we’ve found during our work as a company designing and implementing these systems is that we need to include law enforcement from the beginning of the process, and often, defer to their opinions. Anyone that works with us will often hear us state that law enforcement personnel are an incredibly valuable, and often underutilized resource. Their job, day in and day out, is to keep us safe, so ensuring that their ideas are front and center in this process is key to success. We also understand that the process isn’t going to happen overnight. While we’ve worked with many schools and other facilities to institute these systems as part of the SmartBoot implementation process, and standardized our processes as much as possible, there will always be variables individual to each location. By taking the process one step at a time, and understanding that each step is as important as the next, we are able to create a cohesive system.
You Can’t Be Too Thorough
Room numbering, color coding, multiple documents, facility images and video, digital plans, location updates…the list of items necessary to physically represent your identification system is long. Don’t give up! Working through the process to develop the best system possible will take time, but will be worth it in the end. Make a list of everything you could possible need to properly identify the interior and exterior of your building or buildings, and get to work. Here’s the start of one such list:
- Each and every room or location in your building numbered
- Color coded building sections for easy macro-evaluation of locations
- Highly visible room indicators
- Highly visible object indicators (fire extinguishers, drinking fountains etc.)
- Interior plans of each building posted and provided to staff and law enforcement
- Exterior maps of your campus or compound posted and provided to staff and law enforcement
- Escape routes
- Safe room locations and maps of the most efficient routes to these locations
- Potential weak points such as large windows
- Best building routes and potential impediments, such as locked doors, provided to law enforcement
These are just a few items to consider when planning your system, what can you think of to add? Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas. We’re always better when we work together
Integration With Your Safety and Security System
Any system designed to keep building occupants safe is a step in the right direction, let’s put that out there first. When it comes to building safety and security, whether you decide to choose a different comprehensive system than the SmartBoot, an amalgamation of various safety and security devices, or are only able to begin with small improvements, any steps are better than no steps. It is important, however, that you ask yourself questions while you make your decision as to how to best protect your occupants. One such question is, “Does this system work effectively with, or improve upon, our building identification system?”. Does the system include room and item identifiers that makes locations and objects clearly visible for first-responders as they move through your building? Does the system provide dynamic location information to help first-responders locate a threat, or individuals in danger? Does it provide secure, continuous communication to people inside the building so law enforcement has extra eyes and ears to assist them? There are many questions to ask when investing in a safety and security system, these are just a few. You’ll decide how you want to integrate security into your identification system, and your system provider will be a major resource for you in this process.
Don’t Be Afraid to Change
The last point we want to leave you with is that, when it comes to a building identification system, it’s okay to change. We’ve worked with many customers that believed their system was effective, but after further investigation they found that there were issues they hadn’t previously noticed. We’ve also learned a great deal from working with certain customers and local law enforcement that we wouldn’t have had we not kept an open mind. By working together with every party involved, we are able to develop an effective building identification system that will help building occupants remain safer and more secure.