When an emergency happens how do you reach your people?
Most times, when an organization adopts a mass notification system two of the first modes of emergency communication they choose to send an alert through is text and email. These modes are most common for organizations to use when they need to send initial notifications out to the masses in quick order. Most people have their phones on them at all times and many are also in front of their computers many hours throughout the day. But what about the people whose phones are on silent because they’re taking a test, in a meeting with a client, or simply not in a location that has service? How do you reach those people?
Each individual consumes and comprehends information differently, which extends to emergency communications. When developing an emergency notification and response plan, it’s important to evaluate and determine which communication modes you should be leveraging. Many organizations choose to utilize as many forms of emergency communication as they can. They extend the value of their emergency notification system to integrated systems used throughout their organization — such as fire alarms, desktop computers, PA systems, etc, — to add different endpoints that can notify people in addition to text and email. We call this omnimodality. The more endpoints an organization uses for sending mass alerts, the more chance the organization's people will hear, see, or read the alert. Thus, ensuring they reach every person - no matter where they are or what they’re doing. Redundancy is key.
Some of the other best emergency notification system endpoints to increase your reach and ultimate success are:
1. Voice Calls
Many organizations are employing voice calls to spread awareness of the emergency incident and also pass along information on what actions to take. Having the ability to automatically send text-to-voice or pre-recorded voice calls to thousands of landline or mobile phones in seconds is critical during these high-stress situations. Using another avenue of communication to spread an immediate message can help reach people. This is particularly effective for university campuses or organizations with landline phones in every room. Although a traditional technology, voice calls can be a solid way to reach those individuals who might not have mobile service or be near another endpoint.
2. Social Media
Your goal in using multiple endpoints is to ensure you reach as many people as possible no matter where they are. With most people having their mobile devices in hand or readily available, social media is an important asset of omnimodality in your emergency notification system. As we know, social media apps have people engaged more than any other. Having the ability to send and post alerts to multiple social media platforms enhances the likelihood of having someone receive the alert. Integrating social media as an endpoint affords your organization the opportunity to reach those who may not be in your database and for you to control the situation before it begins to have a life of its own.
3. Digital Signs
Many organizations — including businesses, shopping centers, and worship centers — use plasma, LCD, and LED digital signage to display different messages about promotions, weather events, or current events. Integrating these into your emergency notification system allows you to automatically send emergency information out as soon as possible to people in general areas of your building; that once again may not be in your email, text, or voice directory.
4. Fire Alarm Systems
Modern fire alarm systems can be directly integrated with emergency notification systems. Leveraging these installed infrastructure allows you to extend the use of the systems’ loudspeaker and visual prompts or strobes for many kinds of emergencies beyond simple fire evacuations. Because these are so prevalent in every building, they're a great way to reach every person.
5. Mobile Apps
More and more organizations have at least one app whereby employees, students, members, or guests can download to get pertinent information on all the happenings, offers, and other resources. Push notifications look a lot like SMS text messages, but they provide you yet another opportunity to reach users who may not be in your contact database. Integration is quite easy. If you already have a strong download base of users, pushing your alerts and notifications to the organization’s app can be very beneficial and increase reach and redundancy. Extend the value of your organization’s standard app - by also making it an emergency notification app.
Text and email will always be the most common and efficient ways to reach your people, but you should consider expanding your endpoints to make sure you reach all of your people - specifically those you do not have personal contact information. Taking this omnimodal approach is the best way to get your critical communications to every person within your organization.
Having the ability to press one button to initiate all of the modes listed above is critical - and is possible. When there is an emergency, the situation will become high stress and you won’t have time to create unique messages for each specific endpoint. You will be concerned with getting your people to safety and responding to the emergency.
Use this Omnimodal Checklist to help identify the best ways to reach your people and have all your bases covered. You’re able to see what endpoints you can and should use to reach everyone within your organization immediately and in the method, they can consume and comprehend.