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Digital Signage Management: Does Your Organization Suffer From Sunday Night Syndrome?

Twice within the past four months, I have been out of town on business when my general locale came under a Tornado Warning -not a watch, but a warning- issued by the National Weather Service.

For those who don't live in parts of the country where tornados generally occur, the distinction between a watch and warning is the former indicates conditions are favorable to producing a tornado, while the latter means a tornado has been spotted on the ground.

The thing about a Tornado Warning in metro areas is that although sirens will wail to announce the danger, they don't dispense information about where the tornado is located, the track that it is following and other threats that often accompanying tornados, such as the presence of damaging hail. In other words, you know there is danger, but you don't know if you're in the bull's eye or some outer ring on the tornado's target.

Radio and television broadcasters typically fill in the details by telling or showing the public timely information to help them respond appropriately. However, both recent occasions when I encountered a Tornado Warning happened on a Sunday night, a time when many radio stations are playing nationally syndicated programs or automated music playlists and many TV stations are working with a skeleton crew. On both occasions, all stations, save one, were slow to respond with their typically excellent presentation of weather warnings.

Having experienced firsthand a dearth of information in an emergency situation made me think of all the digital signage networks in use that may suffer from their own "Sunday night syndrome."

Please understand, I am using "Sunday night" as a metaphor for whatever day or stretch of time your organization is typically off-duty or understaffed. The day of the week or specific time isn't important, just the fact that your organization is at rest.

Are plans in place to communicate critical emergency information via your digital signage network in a timely fashion during those periods? Sure, most buildings on a college campus may be closed after midnight, but what about the anatomy lab or design studio where students have gathered at the only time they can to study? What about workers on the graveyard shift at the factory? Or for that matter, the drivers on the Interstate like me who see "Click it or Ticket" roadside digital signage messages from the state, but not "Tornado spotted five miles ahead"?

A few helpful questions for managers of digital signage networks to ask include:

* During what periods is our organization at its weakest?

* Do contingency plans exist for emergency communications at off times?

* Have personnel been assigned responsibilities for emergency communications during down times?

* Does the digital signage network allow for control from an off-site Web browser or other remote access to generate and distribute emergency messaging even when no one is present at the operations center?

* Are security methods sufficient to prevent unauthorized remote access to the digital signage network?

While the primary purpose of digital signage networks varies depending on the application, each should share a common role during emergencies: distributing warnings and information that can save lives and minimize the risk of injury. Whether it's Sunday night or some other down time, digital signage network managers should be prepared to do just that.

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