National Preparedness Month brings the importance of personal, business and community preparedness for disasters and emergency events into the spotlight. However, now that the month has come to a close, let us not forget that preparedness efforts are a continual process.
No matter how well we have planned and prepared for disasters or emergencies, ever-changing technologies, capabilities and evolving events provide the need to consistently review and update plans, procedures and mitigation strategies.
This is important for your emergency notification system capabilities. Far too often, a government agency purchases a mass notification system as is, checks the box and puts it in the back of their mind until a time comes they think it would be a good idea to use the system. When used to its capability, your emergency notification system could prove to be the best life saving device at your disposal.
Here are a few bullet points that will help enhance your overall mass notification system capabilities from a programmatic, development and maintenance perspective:
Assign a System Administrator who has the responsibility and accountability to maintain and ensure operations of your notification system.
Create an Emergency Notification Policy for all to follow. Policy should state who the Administrator is, what the responsibilities of that individual are, who can activate notification calls both internally and externally to the public, what events the system be used for and what are the trigger points for call making decisions .
Create and store message template scripts that can be easily edited to fit the scenario.
Create and store calling areas on the mapping tool, such as flood zones, evacuation zones for hurricanes or fixed chemical facilities.
Encourage your staff to keep their contact information up-to-date in the system.
Create and store multiple combinations of internal contact group lists in your system for quick access, such as SWAT Team, EOC Team and executive leaders.
Ensure that your public calling data sources are updated periodically, either through your system provider or through your local sources of data collection, such as E911, utility or property data information. Every source that you can access to provide more data to your system will significantly increase your systems effectiveness.
Use every mode of message delivery available in your system to disseminate emergency messages to the public. This includes voice calling, text messaging, email, social media, mobile apps and IPAWS.
Continuously remind your public about your notification system and encourage them to provide opt-in contact information on your website Community Enrollment Form. Use every form of public contact and exposure that you have available to you year-round to boost enrollment.
Require all system users to complete initial and refresher training on the system.
Require all users to perform a monthly live test activation of the system. This can be a simple text message or call to their phone and the supervisors to validate the test.
Again, preparedness is the key when it comes to life safety as every minute counts. The experienced staff here at Emergency Communications Network will gladly assist you with any of the suggested items listed above to enhance the capability of your system. Please give us a call for any assistance in this regard, 866-939-0911.
ECN’s Director of Government Relations, Don 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.