Emergency Notification Systems and Crisis Communication – Blog

The Dirty Little Secret of Emergency Notification Apps

Elizabeth Venafro By Elizabeth Venafro

Many emergency mass notification vendors are focusing their efforts on making service available primarily through apps. After all, doesn't everyone love apps and love their mobile phones? Well, yes and no... The most recent Gartner Market Guide for Emergency/Mass Notification Services reports, "...no EMNS vendor Gartner follows can demonstrate that these enhanced mobile device apps are being adopted in great numbers..."


Users must be informed and compelled to download a mobile alert app. That places the burden on the administrator to advertise and promote it, as if their jobs weren't hard enough. What's worse, once the emergency alert app is installed, it's got to stay installed. Setting up and learning to use the app may also place an additional burden on admins. Apps that ask for private information, such as location, lead to user concerns and further discourage installs. In the end, it can feel like a fight to promote and keep the app installed, rather than focusing on the important job at hand -- keeping your people safe. 


Estimates suggest that only 7% actually download the emergency notification apps and only 10% of those users will enable location services.  That means you can only reach 7% of your audience in an emergency and that the super geo-location features the app vendor claimed would revolutionize your safety system are only effective with less than 1% of your base. Suddenly, apps don't seem so great!


So, if you can’t reach everyone through your emergency notification app, what is the solution?


Implementing a Multi-Modal Strategy


With over 80% of the U.S. population carrying a smartphone, mobile applications are still an important extension to a campus or organization 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. Apps work best when used as part of a multi-modal strategy.


Not every person is inclined to receive information in the same way. For instance, while most people have cell phones, there is no guarantee that they will have their phone with them when a push notification is disseminated. For that reason, a one-dimensional approach is bound to fail.  A recent Campus Safety Magazine article stresses why "relying on only one type of system will limit the reach of your emergency messages." Schools and organizations need the ability to deliver emergency notifications through every communication channel available, instantaneously and simultaneously.


A key finding from the previously cited Gartner market guide was that core emergency/mass notification functionality, such as SMS text message, voice call, email and desktop messaging, is a commodity service, and it continues to be required by all organizations for crisis communication.


The success of your emergency response is predicated on whether or not the community is able to receive alerts. A multi-modal or multi-channel approach will increase the odds a particular recipient receives your message. For each line of communication pursued, the likelihood that recipients will see or hear the message increases.


Consolidating Emergency Notification Systems


According to Campus Safety’s 2020 Emergency Notification Survey, nearly 75% of campuses use multiple emergency notification systems. While this figure is significant, compared to previous Campus Safety Emergency Notification studies, fewer are doing so than before. What is prompting the decrease in multiple alert systems? Are some campuses not making safety a high priority or is it that schools are realizing the benefits of consolidating emergency notification systems?  Market trends suggest the latter.


In the past, a university may have chosen to deploy a mass notification system, such as Omnilert, alongside an app-centric system, such as LiveSafe. With decreasing budgets and advancing technology, organizations are realizing the benefits of a multi-modal approach with fewer systems. The Gartner Market Guide for Emergency/Mass Notification Services recommends security and risk management leaders "consolidate as many currently implemented EMNS solutions as possible to make their investments more cost-effective and efficient during a crisis."


Emergency notification checklist


Reaching Your Stakeholders


Do you know how best to reach each individual within your community? Have you prepared messages for each channel? An emergency notification system, such as Omnilert, can employ multiple channels — an Omnimodal approach — to guarantee the message is received. We created a checklist to aid in your emergency planning.


Download the Omnimodal Checklist


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