What is an Emergency Notification System (ENS)?

What is an Emergency Notification System (ENS)?

Emergency notification systems (ENS) are one-way broadcast communication platforms used to notify people or groups of people of pending or actual emergencies. ENS emergency notifications are widely used across organizations and institutions of all sizes.  For example, the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) relies on wireless emergency alerts to inform the public about critical situations such as dangerous weather or missing children.

While ENS traditionally have been utilized for one-way communications, newer technology solutions have enabled ENS to also be used for two-way communications in an emergency. In these situations, effective ENS systems can not only alert people of an upcoming or pending emergency, but also allow individuals to reply back to alerts to let security officers know that they are safe. Read more about different technology and options for ENS in our Emergency Mass Notification System (EMNS) Buyer's Guide.

When to Use an Emergency Notification System

In a crisis, communication is key. Deploying an emergency notification system (ENS) is a quick, reliable, and effective way to prevent incident escalation and maintain community safety.  Health and safety events can quickly disrupt an organization’s operations and cause widespread confusion and fear.

Rapid, reliable broadcast notifications enable organizations to prevent, manage, and address emergencies by keeping community members informed of relevant hazards and resulting guidance.  Emergencies requiring notification can range from severe weather events (flooding, tornadoes, winter storms); security events (bomb threats, active shooters, and mass protests); and environmental or hazardous conditions (material spills, explosions, gas leaks).

Although ENS mass broadcasts are intended for emergency use during critical events, one-way messaging can be used to disseminate other pertinent safety information, such as road closures or COVID testing locations.

Crafting Emergency Messages for ENS

With modern ENS such as Vector Solutions LiveSafe, notifications may be sent via a mobile application push alert or using text, email, or voice messaging. Older technology systems may have strict limits on the amounts of characters that can be sent via text messages but newer systems, such as Vector LiveSafe, generally allow for greater character limits. Security personnel should send straightforward emergency notification communications with as minimal information as needed to convey the message to the audience.

The mantra for crisis communications is “Be First, Be Right, and Be Credible." Messages should alert, inform and reassure. Alert calls attention to the emergency issue; Inform lets the user know what is happening and what they should do; and Reassure provides resources for additional steps. Here’s a sample of an emergency notification message for an evacuation.

TEXT/EMAIL/VOICEMAIL: This is the Public Safety Department of [Your Organization].  Officers are responding to a report of (problem) at (location).  Calmly evacuate the building using all available exits.  Move away from the building. 

Modern systems that use geofencing (sending alerts based on user’s location) can also assist in messaging so that messages are more targeted and relevant to only users who are near the building that needs to be evacuated for example.

How do ENS Platforms Work?

ENS platforms empower organizations to rapidly connect with their communities and share critical information in times of crisis. When a safety or security situation arises, security teams can immediately create and send notifications to employees. These emergency alerts can be sent to many devices and locations simultaneously using a variety of communication channels, such as text, call, email, and push notification.

The most effective ENS platforms enable organizations to target their mass messaging by specific user groups. These groups may be based on employees’ geographic locations, professional roles, or other relevant factors.

These groups may be based on employees’ geographic locations, professional roles, or other relevant factors.

User grouping and geo-targeting facilitate targeted, effective ENS usage. These features also ensure that employees aren’t receiving irrelevant alerts that could lead them to ignore future ENS notifications.

Effective modern ENS platforms also allow security personnel to have a clear record of how many recipients have viewed the emergency broadcast alert and by what medium.

What Value Does ENS Provide?

ENS mass communication platforms help organizations prevent, manage, and address emergencies in real time. Crises require rapid response, and mass notifications ensure that community members are prepared to take action before, during, and after critical events. Thousands of communities rely on ENS to inform them of emergency situations, weather warnings, power outages, lockdowns, and more.

For example, one Vector Solutions commercial real estate client used the LiveSafe platform’s Broadcast functionality to avoid property damage during protests in Washington, D.C.

Improving Communications with ENS

By deploying an effective ENS, organizations can improve their emergency response and demonstrate their commitment to safety. Instant emergency alerts and updates also help prevent incident escalation and minimize liability exposure, lost trust, and incident-associated costs. Using a user friendly ENS or emergency mass notification system (EMNS), organizations can become safer, smarter, and better.

If you are considering deploying an ENS in your organization, it's important to understand the function of ENS, key features, and relevant use cases. To learn more, download our Emergency Mass Notification System (EMNS) Buyer's Guide.


Alexandra Brunjes has a B.S. in Neurobiology from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. with minors in Creative Writing and French. She is a published journalist and experienced health and science writer. Her expertise includes risk intelligence, healthcare and neuroscience, and technology.

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