No one likes to think about emergency situations, but it's inevitable that we will face at least a few in our lifetime. With that in mind, it's important to prepare for these emergencies ahead of time with a solid communication strategy, clear mind, and a specific set of useful steps that can save countless lives.
We're relatively accustomed to receiving alerts on our mobile devices. Amber and weather alerts are often sent out based on our geography, and many people have news alerts installed as well. With that in mind, SMS notifications are a great way to quickly get the attention of your contacts and encourage them to take immediate action.
While text messages are a fantastic way to get the word out quickly and succinctly to all concerned, you need to start by creating a plan of action for sending a mass text alert. Investing in an emergency text alert system to warn people of an imminent threat may be the right choice for you because of all the features they offer.
Key Features for a Text Alert System
When deciding between text alert systems, there are few factors you should consider prioritizing throughout your search
- Mass messaging: While this seems relatively intuitive, not all communication platforms offer mass messaging. If you have any reason to believe you may need to send out emergency alerts to large groups, prioritize mass messaging as a feature.
- Two-way conversations: Conversations allow for your contacts to ask questions and receive answers quickly. In addition, if you receive the same question multiple times, you can quickly send out another text message broadcast to clarify.
- Personalized templates: Creating and saving templates before disaster strikes can save you valuable time during an emergency situation.
- Call landlines: If not all of your recipients have a mobile device, you'll want a service that can identify contacts with landlines so you can deliver your message as a call.
- Text Surveys: If you need confirmation that all your contacts are safe, text surveys allow you to instantly gather responses by simply asking a yes or no question.
Types of Emergency Alerts
One of the most common types of emergency messages are severe weather alerts. The Red Cross offers a comprehensive list of all emergencies and how to prepare for them. On the weather front, they note floods, winter storms, hurricanes, thunderstorms, heat waves, tornadoes and wildfires as the emergencies that most certainly require decisive action to inform the inhabitants in that particular geographic area.
Text messaging is an effective way to immediately notify your contacts of dangerous severe weather situations. For example, if you're a school on the shoreline and a deadly nor’easter is bringing a “Sandy” style super storm to your door during school hours, it's vital to send text message alerts to parents. A quick notification can give parents a course of action, letting them know whether they should pick up their children from school, stay where they are until the storm passes, or evacuate from specific areas.
If there's forecasted bad weather, you can send out emergency alerts preemptively. A great example of this would be to send a snowstorm message notifying parents of school closings. To do this, you'll need to have access to a SMS notification system that will spread the word quickly and effectively to your specific group. In addition, it's a good idea to have a text template for any possible weather scenario that might need to be sent to your community.
Natural disasters are usually the type of emergency that comes on very quickly and needs immediate action. These environmental emergencies can range from forest fires to tsunamis to earthquakes. Whatever the situation, you can provide a positive outcome for people in your community if you can notify them rapidly through your emergency text alert system.
The warning can simple. For example, "Please evacuate the area immediately. There is a forest fire spreading at a rapid rate in our area." is a short but effective alert. Saving time by sharing what the immediate action should be can minimize casualties and fatalities.
Safety warnings have become increasingly more regular in schools and universities lately, but are incredibly effective in notifying all parties of the situation instantaneously. These types of warnings could include things like a COVID-19 exposure, or a threat to the school. Threats to the school should not be taken lightly, and it's important to notify both parents and students as soon as possible so that everyone stays safe.
Another way safety warnings can be used is for crime or dangerous situations around a living community. For example, a neighborhood watch may send out a message alerting residents that there was a coyote spotted in the vicinity. You could also use the platform for crime warnings, especially if there's an altercation close to someone's property.
Stay Level Headed
When sending emergency SMS messages, it is good to stipulate the type of emergency being faced and its level of severity (1-3) in your text message. Different emergency levels require different actions.
• Level 1 -Minor emergency/critical incident: This emergency is a small event that has probably been contained and the emergency alert message serves as an update on what action to take. E.g. there was a small fire in the science lab. No one was hurt but children need to be picked up from school. This incident could be resolved with limited outside assistance.
• Level 2 -Major emergency/major crisis: An event that could potentially affect an entire community that requires immediate relocation or serious action. It is a situation that will most definitely require external assistance. (explosion, fire, major flooding, power outage)
• Level 3 -Disaster: A catastrophic incident bringing possible loss of life or massive destruction. (terrorism, natural disaster, hazardous material spills etc)
Send Text Alerts to Save Lives
It is vital that your emergency alert states critical information in a clear, concise way. You should give your contacts simple actions that can or should be taken to avoid the dangerous situation. Your ultimate aim when sending emergency text message alerts is to keep your community safe, not to incite panic without explanation. When responding to an emergency situation in your immediate vicinity remember:
• DON'T PANIC: Panicking will just cloud your mind, which can severely hinder communication.
• Do not try to assist any victim if you are in danger. E.g. the building has gone up in flames or there are gunmen firing on a crowd.
• Memorize your emergency phone numbers like 0 or 911. For the fire department, rescue squad, ambulance, police or poison control center call 1-800-222-1222. Clearly state your name, the location and the number of people.
• Never move an injured person unless it is a life-threatening situation. Try to keep the victim quiet, warm and still.
As you start to put together your emergency response policy for your organization, one of the pivotal functions will be the way you send out your emergency SMS alerts to your contacts' mobile phones. Text-Em-All delivers automated options to ensure that you can get the word out in time to keep your community informed and safe. Our easy-to-use solution will facilitate the timely sending out of all your emergency mobile text alerts with minimal manual effort.
Ron Kinkade is the Head of Marketing at Text-Em-All, an automated calling and mass texting company that provides solutions for small and medium-sized businesses, large corporations, membership organizations, community groups, and individuals. Ron has more than 20 years of experience with a proven track record of success. Ron enjoys bass fishing, beach vacations, and spending time with family.