Developing emergency communication strategies for buildings - Year 1

National Institute of Standards and Technology report: "Developing Emergency Communication Strategies for Buildings - Year 1 Report" 
Authors: Kuligowski, E.D., Gwynne, S.M., Butler, K.M., Hoskins, B.L, Sandler, C. - NIST
Date of issue: April 2012


The Technical Committees of the National Fire Protection Association responsible for NFPA 72®, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code® have undertaken a major project to incorporate requirements for the planning, design, installation and use of Emergency Communications Systems. One of the goals of the Technical Correlating Committee on Signaling Systems for the Protection of Life and Property (responsible for NFPA 72) is to provide a structured approach for the development and implementation of emergency communication strategies. The work of the NFPA 72 Technical Committees has focused on providing “menus” that permit the development of communications strategies based on differing levels of risk for a variety of different hazards and threats.

The Technical Committee for Emergency Communications Systems within the NFPA 72 project has developed significant revisions to NFPA 72 (including a new chapter 24 in the 2010 edition) to address this topic which has resulted in the identification of a series of information and messaging needs. Other work, including a recent NIST workshop (NIST Pub# 1093, “Mass Notification Messages: Workshop Proceedings”, Mar 09) has also identified a need for further research on messaging and communications strategies. These efforts recognize that in recent years there have been major advancements in technology and systems availability and new demands on systems to meet the needs for emergency events other than fire (e.g. security, natural catastrophe, etc). Also, more recent studies of human behavior in a variety of emergency situations have increased awareness regarding the need for effective communications before and during different stages of an emergency.

This project focuses on establishing best practices for emergency message content and delivery as a function of emergency type, temporal framework, intended audience, and delivery format. This report is a result of Year 1 of the project, which includes a review of the state-of-the-art in emergency communication technology, approaches, and research on human behavior in response to public warnings. In Year 2, tools and templates for message providers (e.g., incident commanders, facility managers, etc.) will be developed to assist in planning and composing messages that will maximize effectiveness for the method of delivery. Messaging strategies will focus on events internal to buildings or collections of buildings (e.g. campuses).

Related report

NFPA's "Smoke Alarms in U.S. Homes Fires" report