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As temperatures rise, new uses emerge for mass notification system

Much of the original Blog post below was posted in August 2010. Less than one year later, a deadly heat wave arrived early in large parts of the nation from Louisiana to New York. In recent days, heat has been blamed for the deaths of five people in Tennessee, Maryland and Wisconsin. This pre-summer heat wave has prompted many jurisdictions to open cooling centers and provide information to citizens about protective action. This hot weather preview presents the perfect opportunity to think about how your mass notification system can be used to inform first responders, public officials and citizens about the dangers at hand.

Contacting Citizens – personal preparedness, cooling centers, utility usage

Using your mass notification system to remind citizens about personal preparedness is a great way to reach out to a community in crisis. You can stress the importance of staying hydrated, limiting outdoor or strenuous activities and spending time in air-conditioned places like stores, libraries, and public buildings. Invite residents to check on friends, family, and neighbors. Remind citizens to stay informed by tuning into local media stations, newspapers, and websites for weather updates.

As things get worse, and if you need to open cooling centers, a mass notification system can help with the daunting task of letting citizens know it is available – where it’s located, transportation options, hours of operation and what services will be provided.

If it becomes necessary to ask citizens to voluntarily decrease water usage, mass notification is a way to reach a large audience quickly and efficiently. Use your system sensibly and methodically to keep citizens informed.

Internal Communications – cooling center openings, first responders, public officials

In addition to reaching large populations quickly, mass notification systems may be used to contact internal resources too. For example, before cooling centers are opened to the public, their set-up needs to be coordinated. Finding out who is available and activating the teams can be made easier with a notification system.

Inform emergency responders and 911 operators that your heat plan has been activated and that they should expect an increase in the number of calls from citizens about heat related issues. Take this opportunity to remind first responders to take care of themselves so that they can effectively take care of others too.

City Managers, the Mayor and other public officials would benefit from being informed through mass notification during heat emergencies. Along with being up to date on your emergency plan, they may wish to visit cooling shelter locations personally to thank staff and to visit with citizens.

During last summer’s massive heat wave, Von Pinnon, editor of Fargo North Dakota’s The Forum wrote this: This summer’s excessive severe weather – some of it deadly – has really awakened us to a much bigger issue that has more to do with how we live today. After all, dangerous and deadly weather is as old as weather itself. But how we learn about it before it potentially harms us largely depends on how we communicate, and how we communicate is changing about as fast as the weather around here.