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Audio Alerts for COVID-19 – Helpful or Stressful?

Audio Alerts for COVID-19 – Helpful or Stressful?
21 October 2020

Public address systems are often used in order to bring immediate attention to people in a variety of venues. In light of an update to Bodet’s alert sounders marketed for use in multiple facilities where COVID safety reminders are desired, how has coronavirus altered the use and effect of this delivery method?

What we hear can affect the way we think and feel in many ways. Most of us experience music in some form for a positive influence, but even the basic background noise has proven to affect a large percentage of workers. Office noise generators became much more popular during the shift to working from home, as workers realised they missed certain sounds that give them subconscious comfort and aid concentration. It’s no surprise that foreground audio is used to grab our attention, like the adverts that interrupt our focus playlists on streaming sites, or the stopping at location announcements on many train services.

Recently, the latter has been included in a more extensive service broadcast – at the beginning of the journey, the driver often plays an automated message or explains that you must wear your masks throughout the journey and maintain social distancing, in order to jog the memory of passengers or inform those that are not regular users of public transport, and may not have seen the signage.

This seems appropriate especially for travellers that are hard of sight. However, with the bombardment of coronavirus mentions in daily city life, would you feel the same having such interruptions consistent in other places? At work, at school, in shopping centres, gyms and perhaps even large pubs, this may come across as unwelcome, excessive, unnecessary and invasive.

It could be argued that people hard of sight are already more cautious about infection due to their reduced ability to observe social distancing, and that announcements are not going to make a difference to this. Some of the aforementioned facilities are already fitted with systems that would allow management to rally people in emergencies – would putting these to use in higher frequency for other safety details take away from their shock factor in times where immediate action is required?


"Schools, businesses and all organisations open to the public must be able to alert everyone on site not only to routine information but also to outside intrusions, attacks, natural disasters, and much more." 


– Richard Manby
Managing Director, Bodet

Bodet's Latest PA and its Ideal Applications


Bodet has introduced a new generation of multi-functional audio sounders for their IP POE Harmonys emergency alert sounder and PA system. As well as a high-quality sounder, Harmonys Trio incorporates a flashing light to provide a visual alert and an LED scrolling message display to reinforce the audible announcement. In schools, Harmonys can broadcast messages or bell sounds to indicate class change, unique alerts in the event of an emergency, and social distancing and face-covering reminders. For manufacturing sites, shift and break announcements can be broadcast throughout the site in addition to streaming music. Organisations open to the public can ensure that both employees and visitors are fully aware of all safety procedures in force to minimise transmission of COVID-19.


Where is this Effective, and will it Have the Desired Effect?


In schools, the benefits are obvious. Although the notices of regulations are everywhere, younger people are less likely to hold this in their attention amongst their friends and studies. On construction sites, where masks and gloves are worn constantly and the contact between collaborating employees is high, with or without warnings, it’s harder to see how this technology would be necessary. No doubt our shopping venues could better enforce distancing or specific directional guidance with a PA unit.


It does appear that where mask and distancing announcements would be most effective is also where they would be received least gratefully. Due to the recent introduction of a ten pm curfew, bars are filling up and people are drinking more, earlier. In these situations, staff are left to face the response when they remind intoxicated groups to keep maintaining precautions, and a speaker delivered interruption might provide some much-needed anonymity. On the flip side, this is likely to frustrate customers and encourage them to consider wherever else is open that may leave them alone to spend their leisure time without thinking of COVID-19.

Bodet’s managing director, Richard Manby commented, “Three devices incorporated into one unit reduces capital outlay, speeds up installation and enables more efficient use of energy. Schools, businesses and all organisations open to the public must be able to alert everyone on site not only to routine information but also to outside intrusions, attacks, natural disasters, and much more. In these emergency situations, responsiveness makes all the difference. The visual support to audio announcements that Harmonys Trio provides ensures that everybody is immediately aware, the messaging is clear and there is no confusion. This allows everybody to take the right action swiftly and effectively, so safety is ensured.”


Controlling Coronavirus into 2021


As the government initiatives to control the virus are continuous, many organisations are looking for fresh ways to help in the fight. BESA’s COVID-19 Panel has produced two new guidance documents providing clear and practical information about how to reduce the risk of virus transmission on site and methods for carrying out risk assessments for workers who have to stay away from home. As we move forwards with the three-tier system across the nation, audio announcements could be a very viable forum to inform people of changes in regulations for social facilities, especially when everyone has become used to the standard in signage. They may not look twice for updates to these, so appealing to other senses is the next logical step.

It would make sense also for the phrasing and commands to also change tune. With mental health week this year bringing awareness to the emotional struggles this year, it is important to consider the abundance of negative reinforcement approaching winter, especially if this extends to multi-sensory instructions. It would be a welcome change to see any methods of PA also used to encourage physical health, diet and alternate aspects of lifestyle as boosts to the immune system and mind in coming months. Clearly it boils down to considerate use of the technology, and of tone in the programming it promotes.

Picture: loudspeakers for public address mounted on a mast.

Article written by Bailey Sparkes | Published 21 October 2020


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