Notification: Notification: Visit our COVID-19 resource center - Learn More >

Ask Don!

We are putting together a series of canned alerts to preload in our CodeRED system. Can you provide us with a suggested list of emergency topics and sample messages for each?

Don Hall, ECN's Director of Government Relations
Don Hall, ECN’s Director of Government Relations

Absolutely! We can assist you with that information. For over fifteen years, Emergency Communications Network (ECN) has been studying statistics and human behavioral characteristics as they pertain to emergency notifications. Additionally, we have several staff members who have significant hands-on experience in creating effective emergency messages to the public. Collectively, we have developed a set of conceptual guidelines for our clients to access which will ensure they receive the maximum benefit and success from their mass notification efforts.

We highly encourage our clients to pre-develop as many message and notification scenarios as they can for quick emergency access. This is especially important for those fixed hazards within your jurisdiction that have predefined zones or evacuation parameters. This could include flood zones, hurricane evacuation zones, nuclear power plant evacuation zones or other hazardous material sites. Each jurisdiction should also identify the many other possible emergencies that are specific to your area and create message templates to save in your system.

Pre-canned messages probably won’t provide the recording official’s name, date, time or specific location of the alert, since that will change with each incident. However, they will allow you the benefit of a rapid alerting process that can easily be followed up with more crucial and detailed information as it develops. Within CodeRED, you can also select a saved message and edit the text or customize other specifics. In an emergency, every second counts. Being proactive is a crucial step to an effective mass notification program.

Another suggestion is to create a reference document for any of your CodeRED mass notification system users to access. This document should contain written message templates with the basic content provided for each specific hazard. When called upon to deploy a call, the templates can be used to capture the basics and will allow the system user to fill in the blanks for name of caller, date, time and location affected.

Although each message is different, they should all contain six key elements in order to create an effective mass notification message. They should always be as concise as possible. We recommend that voice recorded messages are kept to about 30 seconds in length. Believe it or not, even with an emergency message, we find that a great deal of citizens will abort the call between 30 and 45 seconds, thus missing the critical information. Structured correctly, you can provide a suffice amount of valuable information in 30 seconds or less.

 Six key elements of an emergency message:

1. Identify yourself and your agency

2. The date and time

3. Nature of the call

4. Area affected

5. Action to be taken

6. Directions for more information

Taking these key elements and applying them to any situation will net you the best results. A couple of examples:

Missing Person

1. This is Officer John Smith with the {XXX} County Sheriff’s Office

2. It is Saturday, June 14 at 6 pm.  (important for answering machines/voicemail)

3. We are presently investigating a missing person (description of missing)

4. Last seen in the area of Maple Ave. and 16th St. at {XXX Hrs.}

5. If you have seen or have any information on (missing person’s name) please call xxx-xxx-xxxx

Gas Leak

1. This is Emergency Director John Smith with the {XXX City/County} Emergency Management Office

2. It is Saturday, June 14 at 6 pm

3. There has been a gas line rupture

4. In the vicinity of 1650 Spring St

5. Please remain in your home

6. We will send out another message when it is safe to resume normal activities or the situation escalates. Thank you

There will be times when you may want to say in your message to NOT call 911 as this will delay your dispatchers in handling true emergencies. Countless times we have seen a 911 call center shut down due to the amount of call backs for a poorly constructed message. Always make sure to carefully evaluate your emergency message before disseminating it to the public.

For individual assistance with message creation or requests to receive a copy of emergency message templates, please click here to email me. We will be happy to assist you in any way possible.




ECN opened up the opportunity for you to connect with Don Hall. Hall has spent more than 40 years in public safety so his emergency management experience makes him ideal for helping our current clients, potential customers and the emergency management community to interact with regarding the need and use of mass notification systems for state and local governments.

This platform was created to make your questions for Hall, heard. If you have anything you would like to ask him please  click here to email your question and he will address your question directly, right here in our “Ask Don” blog.