Guidance Document: Emergency Communication Strategies for Buildings

Author: Erica D. Kuligowski, Ph.D., National Institute of Standards and technology (NIST), Gaithersburg, MD
Date of issue: March 2014


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 purpose of this report is to provide guidance to system designers, building managers, and/or building emergency personnel responsible for emergency communication on how to create and disseminate messages using basic communication modes (audible and/or visual technology). The guidance provided here is taken directly from a report published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which was based on a review of 162 literature sources from a variety of social science and engineering disciplines2 and the prioritization of the specific findings extracted from each literature source. This three-year effort was principally funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Science and Technology Directorate with additional support from industry sponsors.3

2 Kuligowski, E.D., S.M.V. Gwynne, K.M. Butler, B.L. Hoskins, and C.R. Sandler. (2012) Developing Emergency Communication Strategies for Buildings. Technical Note 1733, National Institute of Standards and Technology: Gaithersburg, MD.  

3 Kuligowski, E.D. and Omori, H., 2014. General Guidance on Emergency Communication Strategies for Buildings, 2nd Edition. NIST Technical Note 1827, National Institute of Standards and Technology: Gaithersburg, MD.