Emergency signage

Interesting piece in a publication called Government Technology, about the premise of extending marketing-focused digital signage into emergency response systems.

There's been lots of chatter and some integration of things like Amber Alerts into public networks, but I'm not familiar with much out there that has really tied in to the whole notion of emergency response. It's complicated stuff, and we've all been busy just trying to make the business case on advertising to look at the much bigger picture.

Writer Paul Taylor, of the Center for Digital Government, makes this argument:

"Unless marketing is your only mission, there is a simple question to determine if digital signage is becoming mission-critical in your organization. Is it included in your disaster recovery and business continuity planning?

If not, you should consider that the power, computing, network and human resources that support such signage could be better used for more important things in emergencies. If so, perhaps your organization has understood the importance of digital signage during emergency responses.

Rather than the thousands of digital screens surrounding us every day going black — or worse, going blue — imagine public spaces where the displays actually do some good when bad things happen. Without serious engineering and coordination with emergency management professionals — many of whom are still dubious about plasma displays in their own command centers — this preferred future would appear to be a parallel universe where:

  • advertising would be replaced by critical information and directions;
  • focus would shift from "impressions, engagement and experience" to "community";
  • nonemergency "way finding" signage would support emergency evacuations and safety-related messages;
  • consistent, intelligent and targeted multi-channeling messaging would be controlled from the palm of your hand; and
  • return on investment would ultimately be measured not in optimizing revenue, but creating public value at times of crisis as part of an ad hoc civil defense network."

It all makes sense, but it also makes me a little jumpy. Do commercial network operators really want a government override on their screens???

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