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In countries such as South Korea, people are receiving ‘emergency text messages’ from mass notification systems that government officials are pumping out nearly three to five times a day. On February 25th, one district sent out a message detailing a person’s movements four days previously, right down to the specific hours that they were at an elementary school, town center and then grocery store.

From the Central Disaster Relief Headquarters, another on March 26th gave what has now become an almost daily instruction on social distancing, coughing etiquette, hand washing and how to care for seniors…

What is a Mass Emergency Notification System? 

A mass emergency notification system is an automated way of contacting a large group of people within an organization and giving out important information amidst crisis. After an incident occurs, a business has to figure out what its severity is and its potential impact and then communicate with employees, staff, management and everyone within the organization. Mass emergency notification systems communicate corporate communications through phone messages, texts, and emails in real-time. Any size business is able to implement an emergency communications plan. It is vital if there are multiple locations, and if the business manufactures any hazardous materials or uses systems that could destroy or harm any employees or communities. The database of a mass emergency notification system contains a database of names, addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers. Systems can be programmed in-house devices or managed services in which users can access the system through a phone or the internet, launch the notification process and remotely manage successive activities. 

What Can Mass Emergency Notification Systems Do For Your Business?

Emergency notification systems are essential for businesses, schools, healthcare facilities, and any organization that requires a unified communication platform. Mass Emergency notification plans should include every staff member, employee, and student. Threats vary based on location.

However, the most common threats can impact everyone. Mass emergency notification systems are very flexible and can be used for more than only emergencies. Your business’s day-to-day operations can tremendously benefit from a unified communication system. Organizations are able to send out secure notifications and efficiently manage operations. Processes like scheduling shifts and managing field techs are streamlined across channels. Notifications can include but are not limited to: 

  • IT Outages 
  • Security Threats
  • Natural Disasters
  • Weather-Related Info
  • Hazardous Materials Events
  • Suspicious Person Alerts
  • Employee Scheduling
  • Any Activity or Event That Requires Immediate Notification 

A mass emergency notification system is a perfect tool for any opportunity where fast and efficient internal communications are required. By providing a means for information exposure, businesses can ensure that no employee is left out. 

Businesses are able to send secure notifications and manage workflows. Notifications include: 

Natural disasters, Security threats, Gunshot and Active shooting, Open doors, Employee Scheduling, Input from panic buttons, IT outages, Tornado or Severe Weather-Related Information, Suspicious person alerts, cybersecurity breaches, facility lockdowns, fire emergencies, hazardous materials events

Modern Alert System Necessity

Mass emergency notification systems are not just for government this day in age. All businesses have the need to communicate effectively and quickly when something critical occurs. According to the Business Continuity Institute, more than 50 percent of organizaitons use a form of emergency management software to reach their employees during times of crisis. Although this has not always been easy, especially as people are working at home during the COVID-19 crisis. Businesses and organizations noticed the need to reach many more people and understood that relying on mobile technology meant going mobile or excluding a significant portion of the audience. Several businesses have highly mobile employees who rarely, if ever, sit all day at a desk. Instead, people are more on the go, traveling, working remotely, and often working from a mobile device. 

Key Feature Requirements to Consider When Having a Mass Emergency Notification System Installed

There are very many features to evaluate to ensure that your system does what it is intended to do, which is to reach the most people at the fastest rate. 

Speed: Is any feature really as integral as speed when considering emergency alerts? When seconds can determine the difference between life and death, you’ll need a system that will activate quickly before it sends out thousands of messages in less than a minute. The more clicks and steps, the longer your employees must wait to receive possibly lifesaving information, warnings, and instructions, 

Multi-Channel Notification Delivery: Each of your employees probably has their own preferred method of communication devices that they use most. If your notification system only targets one or two channels you might miss out on a significant number of employees that could be in harm’s way. It is critical that software is found to enable you to select multiple channels of communication to include in your alerts. 

Message Customization Per Channel: Communication channels have a lot to offer, however, so do the kinds of messages that are best suited for the channels. Think of an email, for example, it has the flexibility to contain lengthy instructions, links, attachments and images. Push notifications, on the other hand, are generally only made up of brief statements of few words. It is important that the capability to tailor your messages to best fit the channels you are sending them through. 

Audience Grouping: If your business has multiple locations, traveling employees, a dispersed workforce, or remote workers, you’ll need an emergency notification system that will allow you to segment your target audience. Your messages and alerts might not need to be sent to every employee. To be sure that only the right people are receiving the right messages, you’ll want to group your audience. Not only does “audience grouping” ensure that the right audience will receive the right messages, it also erases unnecessary messages from being transmitted across the system. The more unnecessary or irrelevant messages that people receive, the more likely they are to ignore them, diminishing the quality of the messages. 

Mobile Applications for Android and IOS Probably the biggest advantage of modern alert systems is that they are most likely built with mobile technology at the center of the conversation. Older software might try to add this mobility as an afterthought, so make sure that the software found is that which was specifically designed for mobile devices. Users should be able to use the most updated version of IOS and Android devices to receive their push notifications, text messages, and social media posts while also being able to check voicemail, email, company internet site, collaboration apps, and any custom application your company may use. Emergency notification apps should allow your administrators to create messages, sending notifications to potentially thousands of people with just a couple of taps on the phone. 

Easy-To-Use Experience: When time is of the essence, the less complex your mass emergency notification system, the faster and more accurately you are able to send the critical message or warning. The software should be so perceived that little training is required. The less steps, practice, and tutorials required, the more effectively your system will run. 

Audience Interaction: In certain situations, one-way messaging is all that is required. This is how the federal Emergency Alert System works: get the message out and the job done. In a lot of situations, though, it’s beneficial to engage employees and give them the chance to respond either with comments, questions, photos, or videos. Employers that are in the middle of a situation unfolding can provide proper feedback to assist first responders and other employees. 

Integrations: In order to simplify implementation and continued use, being able to integrate the mass emergency notification system with existing systems like HR directories, is an absolute must. Integration like these will automate processes like populating employee contact fields. These integrations are able to save important time in order to reach every employee on their channel preference as well as assist in segmenting the audience. 

Reporting and Analytics: IT investments deserve reporting to gauge effectiveness. Emergency notification system software should be no different. It isn’t enough to purchase one and implement it. You need to be aware if it’s doing what it’d promised which was reaching the intended audience reliably and quickly with the right messaging. And how are those recipients reacting? Vendors vary in the analytics that they provide, however, the basic metrics should include analytics, statistics, read receipts, survey results, delivery performance by channel and replies to ensure you a coordinated audience. 

Enterprise Security: Enterprise should always be at the forefront of your mind for your business. A mass emergency notification system will save messages and user data often intended ony for an internal audience. Additionally, organizations globally, must be considerate of international private data laws, and how personal data such as a cell phone number is stored and delivered country lines. For your risk to be reduced or eliminated, an emergency alert system should provide protocols to protect your information. All of your information should be encrypted both at rest and in transit, The vendor also should maintain industry standard application security, measurement and monitoring protocols in order to protect your business. 

Cloud or On-Premise: Two different deployment methods exist for Mass Emergency Alert Systems. The first and oldest is “on-premise” which essentially means that the hardware and software that run the system are gathered in a physical location managed by your own organization. The other method is known as “cloud”, simply meaning that hardware is stored in an off-site location that is managed by pros in a secured data area. Cloud solutions are generally much easier to manage, more cost-effective and can be accessed anywhere where there is an internet connection. Unlike off-premise solutions, cloud solutions typically don’t require your business to actively upgrade/manage their servers. 

Is A Mass Emergency Notification System Right For My Business?

Any IT investment requires some thought. An emergency notification system isn’t any different. It’s important to consider more than simply the emergency notification system’s cost and reviews. Before investing money into a solution, consider these 

four factors: 

Organizational Assessment: Every business is different. Each individual has unique needs. Consider these questions to determine what kind of solution you may need:

    1. How dispersed is our workforce?
    2. How many locations does my business have?
    3. What internal systems, if any, should be integrated?
    4. What communication channels are used most?
    5. How well are our current communications delivered to and received by employees?
    6. What processes could a solution automate
    7. What would out business benefit from a cloud-based solution?

Cultural Assessment: How your employees work and communicate is a big factor in determining which solution is correct for your business. Consider these questions to gauge how well and what kind of system will be best received: 

    1. How successful have previous alerts, warnings, and internal communications been received?
    2. What kind of training would be required to be sure that each employee is comfortable with the system 
    3. How many employees do we have 
    4. Where do our employees work?

Current Assessment of Capabilities: Before you definitively know what you need, you should know what you already have. Consider the following to determine what should stay and what needs improvement: 

    1. How long does it take to active the system?
    2. What mass communication system do we currently use?
    3. How many channels do our messages utilize?
    4. How quickly can messages be developed and sent?
    5. Can we quickly and easily segment our employee population?
    6. Does our system allow for one-way or two-way communication?

 Threat Assessment: Where your facilities and employees are located has a direct influence on the type of emergencies that are most likely to occur. Determine the following in order to understand the type of messages that will be most common and how they can be delivered best: 

 

    1. What environmental threats or hazards does each location face?
    2. Where are our employees located?
    3. What is our business plan and how will continuity play a part?
    4. How and when will we practice our emergency plan?
    5. What sort of security and IT support do we have in place?

In conclusion,  for those receiving ‘mass emergency notifications’ from government officials, try to think of it as a very effective way to reach out to mass amounts of people during such crisis.

More likely than not, no one had any idea that we, as a nation, would be in “crisis” right now. However,  people have security to thank for much, especially in terms of alerting the public to updates when serious issues impact the nation. 

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