How NOT to Make Headlines

Unfortunately we have seen some recent news coverage of emergency notification systems not performing as expected.  We think this is a good time to review a few best practices to help avoid similar situations.  Here are our 3 “T’s” of mass notification:

TRAIN

Your staff is only as good as their training. During the chaos of an emergency situation, communication processes that were once thought to be easy can become confusing and difficult. Even the use of an emergency notification tool that seemed so simple during training can become daunting and fraught with the risk of miss-communicating simple information.  It is essential to help your staff remain familiar with the notification system with ongoing refresher training.

Establish a clear chain of command in the event of an emergency.  Make sure that you have provided quick and easy access to emergency plan instructions for authorized alert system users.  Have a clearly defined back-up plan that specifies what to do in the event that phone or Internet service is unavailable.  Set-up pre-determined message templates for potential emergency situations.

TEST

Test your emergency notification process and system on a regular basis. Identify potential problems before an emergency occurs.   Select up to 100 of your contacts and send out a simple test message.  Be sure to purge any inaccurate data from your contact list(s) after each test.

Sample Test Message: “This is a test of the Rapid Notify alert system.  I repeat, this is only a test.  In the event of an actual emergency you will receive instructions and information from your local public safety officials.  This is a community service provided to you by [name of organization] and your local emergency management agency.  This was only a test.  More information may be found at [web address]. Thank you.”

In addition to testing the system, test your emergency response plan as well.  Your plan should include protocols for updating your website and addressing the media.  Consider setting up an off-site toll-free number to field inquires.

Be mindful not to test the system too often in order to maintain credibility with alert recipients.  Be clear about how, when, and by whom the system will be used to address any concerns over privacy issues.

TEACH

Educate the public on the benefits of an emergency notification system. Craft a public awareness campaign to teach your community about how you plan to use the system.  Utilize press releases, radio, television, print media and social media where available.

Clearly define the situations in which the notification system may be used (including any non-emergency situations) and provide instructions on how to respond to an alert.  Be sure to stress the importance of situational awareness and describe any alternate methods of communication that may be used in the event an alert is unable to be delivered.

Increasing public awareness can also include offering self-registration for additional contact numbers and/or email addresses.

Need help creating an effective marketing campaign to promote the Rapid Notify system to your community?  We can provide you with helpful tools, templates and ideas.  Let us help you create a cost-effective awareness campaign.  Contact us today!

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