4 min read
Emergency Text Alerts: Split-Second Action for Any Emergency
Those who have worked in emergency services have a great fear of not being able to get the message out fast enough in large emergencies. What if someone gets hurt? This is a thought that crosses the mind of every emergency worker, no matter who they are. What if there was a way for alerts to be sent out by any organization and delivered to the relevant people quickly without hassle?
That isn't so far-fetched. There are text message alert systems like that in place in many universities all over North America and a fully-fledged emergency text alerts system was tested in the UK just last year. Emergency services can rest a little easier with this alerts system in place and know they have done all they can to notify people. So who can use a text message alerts system like this? Here's a list of businesses that could take split-second action, along with potential uses for it.
1. Search and Rescue
With a search and rescue organization, the key is being able to act as fast as possible. Usually, search and rescue are brought in when someone is missing and possibly in danger. Other times they are called in is when a natural disaster has occurred without the chance for evacuation. If a system were put in place to message the staff of that unit, when a call comes in dispatch could simply trigger text alerts to send to all the members of the department, giving them the meeting location and some minor details such as age and gender of the missing person. This allows them to brace themselves for the briefing, know who they are looking for, and know where to meet the team without needing to make a lengthy call to each member. If the organization was worried about the SMS not being received, they could always set up a follow-up automated voice message telling the member to check their text messages for details. This service would increase the reaction speed of the organization and allow for more boots on the ground faster in the event of a missing person or disaster rescue.
2. Fire Services
At the date of writing this, according to bcwildfire.ca, there is a wildfire blazing in Chelaslie River that has so far consumed over 130,000 hectares. This fire is still active but is listed at 75% contained. How many times did firefighters have to evacuate areas or cordon off a new safety area? In California, wildfires have cost over $209 million. If a system were in place that sent out automated text message alerts as to the state of the fire and issue evacuation orders as needed, firefighters might have more time to focus on the fire itself. Of course, this would not eliminate costs but it would help prevent the spending of time on tasks that take away manpower. While not a total fix to that issue, as doors would still need to be knocked on, volunteers could assist firefighters and have the official message to back them up already delivered. This would allow volunteers the same credibility, without taking manpower away from fighting the fire and rescuing stragglers.
3. Police Forces
This issue is particularly fresh in the minds of Canadians, but has been an issue the world over. Three months ago, three of our RCMP officers were killed in a violent standoff, and an area within one of our capital cities locked down until the killer was apprehended. Over the course of 28 hours, the police force asked that the public remain indoors and eventually had to ask that police movements not be shared on social media. Automated text alerts, triggered from police HQ would have eliminated the need for knocking on doors. This would have afforded officers more time to pursue the perpetrator in this case. This is just one example. The text message alert system could be used for more than just lockdowns, however. It could also advise motorists of delays due to a police operation on specific streets, issue AMBER alerts, and even appeal for information in the aftermath of a crime in tightly knit neighborhoods. Quick communication that is widely received and read is important, and it doesn't get much quicker or widely read than an SMS message.
4. Weather Alerts
Currently, weather alerts broadcast on radio and on specific weather channels and sites. Imagine the reaction speed if places at risk for flooding, tornadoes, or worse could be warned prior to the event. An example from the last few years are tsunamis. Tsunamis are not preventable, but the data gathered improved tsunami detection and monitoring. Because of that, a text message alert system warning residents of the impending event would now be highly effective and would stir evacuations or preparations long before the event. There will always be outliers due to the unpredictable nature of the weather world, but a text message alert system notifying folks of incoming storms would help prepare residents of the affected area.
5. Terrorist Attacks/Bomb Threats
In light of recent issues in the world with attacks on various nations and threats, systematically warning the public to stay away from an event is paramount. Until the situation is assessed, everyone is at risk and well-meaning civilians could become the next wave of targets. Many countries have a developed, experienced counter-terrorism unit and first responders who are trained for those situations. "Let those experts do their jobs. If you are a civilian with relevant experience, volunteer with <person>" could be a message easily sent out using a text message alert system, as well as guidelines for how to protect yourself if the offenders are still at large. There are many messages that need to go out both to the public and internally, and SMS is a great way to mass mail quickly and efficiently. Getting the message out faster will increase reaction speed and save more lives.
6. CDC or Other Disease Control Organizations
With the recent case of Ebola in the USA, we are reminded that officials can put a lid on major panic quickly by sending out instructions on how to best protect yourself. By reading these reminders, the public will have safety in mind and will help control the spread of diseases until they can be eliminated. Information transfer is our best friend in any situation. Treating the situation as a secretive emergency that needs to be contained and hidden only serves to increase panic. Periodic text alerts let people know what to expect and what to look for as well as what safety measures to take. Knowledge is power and calm, rational and clear instructions will help people keep things together during an emergency.
These are just a few examples of how the speed and visibility of emergency text alerts serve the emergency field incredibly well. Don't hesitate to share your ideas and questions with our knowledgeable staff, and we'll let you know if the application can do what you need or how long it might take to implement it for you. For more information, look at our emergency communication page, where we have more ideas to streamline the process for responders, and check out our notification software, Alerts. As well, look at our automation services and see other ways we might be able to assist you on our marketing automation page.