Why Emergency Text Alerts are So Effective

Despite there being multiple ways to warn communities of the risk of danger, emergency text alerts remain the most effective.

In today´s technology-driven environment, emergency notification systems are capable of sending emergency alerts through multiple channels of communication, integrating with digital signage, and connecting to the federal emergency preparedness platform IPAWS-OPEN. They can also alert groups of individuals by location, by role, or by any other user-defined attribute.

By using multiple channels of communication and digital signage, emergency notification systems are broadening their reach to the maximum possible and catering to individuals who may suffer from conditions such as impaired hearing. Nonetheless, there is one channel of communication that is more effective than any other for warning communities of the risk of danger – emergency text alerts.

We Live in an Always-Connected Age

More than a decade ago in 2007, Morgan Stanley reported that 91 percent of Americans (who had cellphones) kept their mobile devices with them at all times. Since 2007, the percentage of the population owning a mobile device has grown from 75 percent to 96 percent according to the Pew Research Center, who also found “for many Americans, cellphones are always present and rarely turned off”. (Researchers found only 7 percent of cellphone users “frequently” turn their devices off).

Other research demonstrates why emergency text alerts are so effective. According to TechJury.net, SMS text messages have a 98 percent open rate, and 90 percent of these are opened within three minutes. Apparently, the average American checks their mobile device for missed message forty-seven times per day, and 80 percent of Americans now use text messaging for business – whereas previously many would have turned off their mobile devices when they are at work.

How Wide Area Emergency Text Alerts Work

Many mobile users will be familiar with how group texting works. You simply open a new SMS message, select the contacts you want to receive the message, write the message, and click send. Unfortunately, this is not a suitable process for sending wide area emergency text alerts. First of all, carriers place limits on the number of contacts that can be included in a single group SMS, and secondly, in a stressful situation such as an emergency, it is likely some contacts will be missed or the alert miscommunicated.

For this reason, many organizations use text alert platforms. These have the capability of sending an unlimited number of emergency text alerts simultaneously, and give system administrators the opportunity to pre-compose alert templates that can be sent with the touch of a screen from any Internet-connected device. The remote connectivity and two-way communication capabilities also mean organizations can use the platform as an incident command center during an emergency.

Further Advantages of Text Alert Platforms

Even if an organization has a small database of contacts that could be notified of an emergency using a group SMS text, there are advantages of using a text alert platform. The platforms can be integrated with personnel directories to ensure contact information is always current, they support SMS opt-in/opt-out for visiting personnel and temporary workers, and – via an organization-branded web portal – contacts can select the language in which they would prefer to receive emergency text alerts.

For larger organizations, being able to segment a database by location, role, or any other user-defined attribute means text alert platforms can also be used for non-emergency internal communications. Based on research that suggests people respond to SMS text messages seven times more than email messages, using a text alert platform for internal communications can significantly enhance productivity and better spread the word about corporate news, job vacancies, and social events.