With over 80% of the U.S. population carrying a smartphone, it is no wonder why mobile applications have become an important extension to an organization’s emergency communications strategy and management plan. While it shouldn't be the ONLY means of connecting with your people, the pervasiveness of mobile devices expands your reach.
When considering emergency notification apps, you will want to explore their ability to move beyond one-way communication to subscriber engagement and critical event management solutions. Emergency notification apps can give you a better way to provide your people with information and an easy way to reach you, as well as inform them of what to do in emergency situations. During times of crisis, the real power of mobile devices lies in their potential to provide additional interaction and telemetry, such as location services.
At a minimum, your emergency notification system should have the following core properties:
- Multi-modality: A wide range of communications methods to reach your community
- Reliability: Strong performance, even during concurrent communications
- Mobility: The ability to administer the system and interact with subscribers through an emergency notification app
- Usability: Simple setup and ease of use -- no software to install or maintain
Your mass notification system should provide a powerful, user-friendly solution to address your specific needs and drive user adoption and retention. Specific to emergency notification apps, you will want to look for these top six functions:
1. Push Notifications: Highly visible mass notifications to alert subscribers and take them into the emergency notification app
2. Panic Button: Configurable single touch access to safety hotlines and emergency services
3. Tip Submissions: The ability for data feeds to be provided by subscribers, automatically grouped into categories, and routed to the appropriate emergency response contacts
4. Polls: Send a question with several response options and view the responses in aggregate for targeted follow up
5. Resource Repository: A central location for all safety resources, including documents, videos, links, etc.
6. Cross Platform: Emergency notification app accessibility on both Android and iOS
In addition to the features described above, you will want to invest in a mobile platform that alleviates the burden faced by your administrators when it comes to managing subscribers, promoting user adoption and retention, as well as ongoing maintenance. Unlike other communications strategies, such as text messaging or email, the ability to reach users depends entirely on their willingness to download your emergency notification app and keep it installed on their device. This is why emergency notification apps work best when used as part of a multi-modal strategy, and why your service should help you in the sign-up and retention process.
The more advanced emergency notification apps should offer the following functions:
- Sign-Up Workflows: The ability to automatically manage subscriber invitations and send reminders to those who have not registered
- Custom Branding: Configurable logo and welcome message to promote adoption and retention
- Dynamic Updates: Immediate updates to the emergency notification app without any action being taken by the subscriber or external third party -- The ability to regularly roll out new capabilities as your needs evolve without requiring your users to download anything
In conclusion, emergency notification apps provide organizations with an additional communication channel to reach their users. Emergency notification apps enable you to quickly gain actionable information from subscribers through polling, tip submissions, and telemetry from devices, such as the user’s location. Follow up communications can then be sent to successively more targeted groups based on the information received. Emergency notification apps are an important extension to an organization’s emergency communications strategy, but should not be the only means of connecting with your people in crisis situations.