Definition: What Are Mass Notification Systems?

Critical communications systems are platforms for communicating information to a large number of people at once. The ability to rapidly communicate the right information to the right people is crucial in the event of an extreme weather event, natural disaster, public safety crisis or other event that impacts an organization and its stakeholders.

Critical communications systems have evolved alongside technology, and today they allow organizations to reach stakeholders located anywhere around the world on a variety of platforms within minutes. Many systems also enable two-way communication, so business continuity teams can make sure stakeholders are safe and collect responses to help determine next steps. 

What Are the Benefits of Using a Critical Communications System?

Many organizations have begun to implement some form of critical communications as part of their critical event management and business continuity plans.

When a hurricane is about to hit, companies need to alert employees in affected areas so they can take any necessary precautions. Those employees should also have a way to reach out to let their employers know that they are safe, too.

In the event of an active shooter on a school campus, the school’s administration needs a way to alert everyone immediately so they can lock classroom doors as they wait for the police to arrive. These alerts should also be silent, if possible, so they don’t reveal the locations of stakeholders to the shooter.

And in the event of a cyberattack, business leaders need to be able to immediately detect the threat and alert employees, partners and vendors so they can take appropriate action. Most modern mass notification systems enable administrators to send out different messages to different groups of people. For example, IT personnel might be prompted to patch up vulnerabilities and recover any lost data, while other employees might be advised to change their email passwords and turn on two-factor authentication.

In the above situations and during any type of critical event, there are a variety of benefits to using a critical communications system, including:

  • Ensuring all stakeholders have the information they need during the event
  • Enabling stakeholders to request assistance or mark themselves as safe
  • Allowing organizations to act quickly and maintain continuity in the midst of crisis
  • Enabling organizations to reach employees all over the world in their native language and on a variety of devices 

Depending on the software you implement, your critical communications product might also enable on-demand conference calling, so leaders can discuss the crisis and form a plan of action.

When crisis hits, every second can be the difference between life and death, and an effective critical communications system can help any type of organization alert stakeholders and respond immediately. 

What Are Some Applications for Critical Communications?

A critical communications system is valuable for a variety of situations. In addition to alerting stakeholders of any relevant threats, here are some other applications for critical communications:

  • Content-triggered alerts: Administrators can have messages sent automatically, not only in the case of severe weather but also whenever stock prices change, for example.
  • Convening conference calls: During a crisis, leaders need a way to instantly convene to form a response plan. But a seamless conference calling platform is also useful for routine meetings.
  • Managing contact data: Contact information can quickly become outdated, and without current data, your mass notification software is useless. Modern critical communications software enables stakeholders to update their own information and allows administrators to send out messages and see whether they have been received and opened.
  • Managing common scheduling problems: If someone is out sick and you need an employee to cover a shift, a mass notification can help you quickly find someone to fill in.

Trusted critical communications systems can send out messages through a variety of channels, including email, SMS, mobile push notifications, desktop applications and more. By utilizing a variety of channels, you can ensure your employees and stakeholders not only receive the message but also understand its importance and respond straight away. 

What Should You Look For in a Critical Communications product?

We’ve come a long way since the phone tree was the height of mass communication technology. Technology has certainly evolved, but some systems are more effective than others, and a critical communications system that works for another organization might not be right for yours. 

Here are a few features to look for as you decide which critical communications system is best for your organization:

  • Harnesses up-to-date and tested technology: By employing tools including cloud technology, the Internet of Things (IoT), geo-targeted messaging and more, your critical communications product can send two-way, data-rich messages to a specific group of stakeholders anywhere around the world. 
  • Enables rapid message delivery: Alerts and information need to be delivered to stakeholders as soon as possible so they have plenty of time to respond.
  • Comes with excellent IT/customer support: If your mass notification software malfunctions in the middle of a crisis and your vendor is too overwhelmed or inexperienced to address the issue, you could lose precious response time. And depending on the type of disaster, that lost time could have a large impact on your organization.
  • Easy to use: Your business continuity team shouldn’t need to be IT experts in order to use the system. If the software is not user-friendly, there’s an increased risk of false alarms or other types of user error, which could undermine stakeholder trust.
  • Integrates with existing hardware and applications: Your organization no doubt relies on a variety of software solutions and applications, and if your mass notification software doesn’t integrate with them, you could be duplicating work. Make sure your critical communications system can be seamlessly integrated into your current setup.

If you’re having trouble selecting a critical communications product, most vendors offer a free demo so you can talk to the vendor, get a walkthrough of the solution, and help determine which solution is right for your organization. Effective communication is an essential component when responding to any type of critical event. A critical communications system can be a valuable asset to your business continuity efforts by mitigating risk and ensuring rapid communication. 


OnSolve is a leading critical event management provider that proactively mitigates physical threats, allowing organizations to remain agile when a crisis strikes. Using the most trusted expertise and reliable AI-powered risk intelligence, critical communications and incident management technology, the OnSolve Platform enables enterprises, SMB organizations and all levels of government to detect, anticipate and mitigate physical threats that impact their people, places and property. With billions of alerts sent annually and proven support for both the public and private sectors, OnSolve is used by thousands of entities to save lives, protect communities, safeguard critical infrastructure and enable agility for the organizations that power our economy.