Your citizens rely on you for notifications, guidance, and information during emergencies. It is your responsibility to keep them safe, informed, and connected. However, that can be incredibly challenging, particularly if you’re not supported by the right technology. The good news is that a mass notification system can allow you to deliver timely information, alerts, and guidance to everyone within your city, town, or county.
Of course, the challenge is choosing the right system. You’ll find many options out there, and quite a few may be ill-suited to your needs, budget, or growth factors. Below, we’ll walk you through what you need to know when choosing a mass notification system for your municipality.
Before you begin comparing providers or system developers, you need to ensure that you have a good handle on your specific needs. Answer the following questions and you’ll be on the right track:
How large is our audience?
What will the area look like in five to 10 years?
What are the most prominent threats our citizens must be alerted to?
Will the mass notification system supplement an existing emergency warning system, such as a series of sirens?
How does the system fit with the rest of your continuity plan?
Will you need to integrate other systems with the mass notification system?
Will there be any type of training needed to use the new system?
How dispersed is your citizenry?
Are there geographic or technological issues that need to be handled, such as mountainous terrain or low cellular signal?
With this information in hand, you can begin determining what you’ll actually need in the way of a mass notification system.
You need to determine how to best send emergency messages. Will you use SMS technology? Is email a better option? Would automated phone calls be simpler and better suited to your area? Often, municipalities find that a mixture of technologies is the best way to move forward.
For instance, you cannot rely on SMS alone – what about residents who do not own cell phones? Similarly, automated phone calls may not be sufficient in themselves – what about people who are not in range of a home or business phone, or who do not have their cell phone on them at the time? It’s important to identify challenges and needs, and then create a strategic solution that is customized to your unique demands.
When an emergency strikes or you need to warn your citizenry of an impending danger, speed is of the essence. Tornadoes move very fast. Flood waters can rise with alarming speed. Mud and landslides can strike within seconds. Wildfires can spread very quickly. These are just a few examples of situations where time is a critical component in warning people so they can either take precautions or get to safety.
When considering a mass notification system, you’ll need to consider how long it takes to send a message to your citizens, how long it takes to create a message in the first place, whether you can create pre-set messages for common dangerous and disasters, and more. Make sure that you compare the actual speed of messages sent on the system to what a developer promises – hard data is the best foundation on which to base your decision here.
During and immediately following a disaster, communication channels will likely be congested. Phone calls may not go through. SMS messages might fail. How will you send ongoing messages or guidance to your residents? Make sure you have an understanding of how you’ll send out follow-up information when communication networks might be congested, overloaded, or down completely.
Gone are the days when a municipality handled everything by hand. Today, your city, town, or county government is comprised of a wide-spread computer network. Make sure that the mass notification system you choose is able to connect with your network. This offers numerous benefits, including:
The ability to initiate messaging from any connected workstation or device.
Greater redundancy in case some offices/locations are inaccessible or damaged.
However, not all systems are connected to the entire network, nor can they be designed in that way. It may be necessary to go with a custom solution designed specifically for your current needs but offering scalability to handle growth and ongoing development.
Most municipalities experience at least some degree of growth. Unless you are located in a very rural community, the pace of growth may soon outpace your ability to notify citizenry and business owners about emergencies or disasters. Make sure that the system you choose is as future proof as possible. This certainly means choosing your solution with an eye for scalability, but you also need to think about technology and how it is changing.
SMS might be a great solution right now, but what about 10 years from now? Will SMS still be as widely used, or will there be a new communication technology that’s more widely used? If so, will you be able to integrate that with your mass notification system? While it might be impossible to anticipate exactly how technology will evolve, built-in future proofing is possible.
Often, emergencies and disasters strike very specific areas. It’s important that you’re able to communicate this increased risk levels to those within those areas. A mass notification system built with location-based features allows you to do just that. This ensures that you’re able to send unique messages to those within specific areas, while also sending notifications to others who may be affected but might not be within the most dangerous area.
The right mass notification system will give you redundancy through multiple communication channels, provide you with the means to grow over time, and help you leverage advanced features through unique technology. At Job Hub Group, we can help you develop a custom solution that ensures you’re able to deliver timely warnings, information, and guidance to your citizens. Contact us today to learn more about our development capabilities.