A Madison-based company won two awards for security this summer for its emergency notification system, which sends both mobile and on-premises alerts.
InformaCast Fusion with Microsoft Teams, developed by Madison-based Singlewire Software, 1002 Deming Way, blasts emergency alert notifications through a multitude of channels, including mobile phones, intercoms, desktop computers, digital signs and more. These alerts can be sent out by a user or automatically when connected with other systems.
InformaCast launched its partnership with Microsoft Teams in April and has since won a Best Electronic Systems Technologies (BEST) award from Campus Safety Magazine for emergency notification and mass notification system as well as a Product of the Year award from Security Today for emergency communication system.
InformaCast in its original iteration was created in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when government organizations sought to speed up their evacuation processes in emergencies, said Pat Scheckel, executive vice president of product management. The first InformaCast programs sent alerts through company desk phones and public address systems, but as communications systems became more sophisticated, so did InformaCast.
Many of the updates to InformaCast have been surrounding automation, Scheckel said.
“In the very early days, it was just sending audio and text to desk phones,” he said. “Now, a lot of it is about new ways to trigger (notifications).”
But it’s that connection to on-premises devices and messaging systems that keeps InformaCast unique in emergency communications management, Scheckel said. Many services can offer mobile alerts, but there are multiple situations where a text message or push notification isn’t the most effective way to communicate.
“If you have a fire, you don’t just send a text,” he said.
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With InformaCast, alarms can ring while desk phones and intercom speakers sound out evacuation instructions or other safety protocols, all with the push of a button.
Administrators in a company or organization’s InformaCast program are able to set the emergency protocols in motion through the app or through their computers, but other situations can also trigger the InformaCast system. Other services, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s severe weather alerts or systems that identify gunshots based on sound, can be connected to the InformaCast system to set off widespread alarms.
More than 70 school districts across Wisconsin use InformaCast for emergency communications, Scheckel said, including the Middleton-Cross Plains School District.
With the system, the school district can automatically shut and lock doors in the hallways of any of its buildings, identify where 911 calls are placed within a building and alert all members of its emergency operations team within seconds of an emergency. The school district can also automate school bell schedules and communicate to different sections or classrooms of its schools using the public address system.
“Anyone who is in our building or around our building (they) are going to hear the (emergency) notification,” said Jim Blodgett, the school district’s director of technology services.
The district has been using a version of InformaCast for several years, Blodgett said, and it is working on integrating the new InformaCast Fusion, which comes with Microsoft Teams software.
The system removes the potential for human error, Blodgett said. A teacher, administrator or other staff member may freeze in the moment or forget one of their tasks in the event of an emergency, he said, but InformaCast will automatically follow programmed instructions once the emergency alert is triggered.
“Having the system lets the computers do what computers do well,” Blodgett said. “It lets people focus on responding to the crisis.”
InformaCast in its original iteration was created in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when government organizations sought to speed up their evacuation processes in emergencies.