When public safety officials evaluate state and local government mass notification systems, they need to take into account the special needs of the citizens they are intending to protect and how notification databases can be populated at a time when many households are wireless only.
Government mass notification systems can be effective tools for alerting citizens to the risk of danger, provided they alert the maximum number of citizens possible and not just segments of the population. Too many notification systems rely on a single channel of communication, potentially excluding those who may be hard of hearing, visually impaired, or for whom English is not their first language.
Furthermore, according to a recent survey (PDF) conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, more than half of the adult population is wireless only. This means that any government mass notification system that populates its database solely with landline telephone numbers is limiting the reach of the system to fewer than half of those it is supposed to protect.
Multi-Modal Government Mass Notification Systems
Multi-modal government mass notification systems are those that use multiple channels of communication in order to get their messages seen, read, or heard. These use a mixture of SMS text, email, social media and voice broadcast to extend the reach of the system as much as possible; and, in many cases, have auto-translate facilities for the benefit of non-English speaking citizens.
Multi-modal systems can be integrated with the federal Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS) and other CAP-compatible alert solutions. They have the benefit of being able to send messages in both short form (i.e. SMS text) and long form (i.e. email), so residents can be alerted to an incident in less than 160 characters and find further information by consulting a long form version of the alert.
SMS Opt-In/Opt-Out Capabilities Maximize Reach
For a multi-modal government mass notification system to achieve maximum effectiveness, it should have SMS opt-in/opt-out capabilities. This works in the same way as a retailer uses SMS marketing by requiring individuals to text a keyword to a short code (i.e. text “ALERTS” to 253578) and then opt into a service in order to receive future communications via their mobile devices.
This capability not only best serves citizens who live in wireless only households, but also visitors to an area with a government mass notification system – who can opt into the system when they arrive and opt out when they leave. Some jurisdictions with such systems already in place have set up their opt-in/out-out facilities so that visitors have a choice of keywords relevant to the length of their stay.
Using Notification Systems for Non-Emergency Events
Government mass notification systems do not exclusively have to be used to alert citizens to emergency events. They can also be used to share non-critical information such as events, festivals and exhibitions in order to increase community engagement. For opted-in visitors, using a mass notification system in this way is a great way to promote an area and its tourist attractions.
Most government mass notification systems have branded web-based portals that can be used by both citizens and visitors to input their preferred methods of communication for specific types of messages. Naturally all emergency messages are sent by every communication channel possible, but citizens might prefer (for example) to receive details of traffic delays by SMS text, information about community events via Facebook, and notifications of government office closures through their Twitter account.
Get the Best Advice about Government Notification Systems
If you have a responsibility for public safety in a state or local government, and you would like to know more about multi-modal government mass notification systems with SMS opt-in/opt-out capabilities, do not hesitate to contact us. Our Public Safety team will be happy to discuss your current systems for public notifications and how Rave Alert can enhance your communication strategy.