Emergency Notification System, Mass Notification

Handle Active Assailant Events with an Emergency Alert System

By Shannon Gallo

Critical communications can make the difference between life and death during an active assailant event. That’s why the right technology is vital to ensuring emergency alerts are delivered rapidly and effectively.

While an emergency alert system can be a game-changer for government agencies, not all systems are equally capable, dependable or robust. Given the many different options available, it’s crucial to conduct due diligence so your agency has the right capabilities in place before you need them.

Here are the essential emergency alert capabilities an agency should have to help keep people safe and informed if an active assailant scenario occurs:

Supercharge Alerts and Get People to Safety Faster

Two-Way Communications

Two-way communication allows you to coordinate with internal teams and gain a 360-degree perspective of the situation. Not only does this reduce confusion and misdirected response efforts, but it ensures that you’re making informed decisions based on real-time updates. Internal two-way communication ability is key for applications like SWAT team activation.

Multichannel Modality

It’s important that any emergency alert system—or emergency mass notification system (EMNS)—be able to send alerts in multiple formats to reach everyone rapidly and reliably. In a true emergency, one or more formats may not be available. For instance, a network may be down, preventing you from sending emails. In these situations, it’s imperative to have a plan “B.” The best emergency alerting system will offer multi-channel communication support, allowing government officials to simply send critical messages simultaneously via many paths such as via SMS/text, social media, email, mobile phones, landlines, and other channels TDD/TTY services, landlines, RSS feeds and FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS).

Real-Time Reports/Post-Event Audits

Officials need insights into who has received alerts, when and how the alerts have been read, as well as which were not received. This can yield important information regarding how to improve messaging (in terms of content, timing and other details) in order to improve access and engagement. For emergency situations, information-sharing tools should provide an audit trail to the sender to validate that it was sent and received quickly. In situations in which alerts are used to gather information for use during an emergency, such as location or whether recipients are safe or need assistance, the system must be able to keep track of as much data as possible.

After the event, an audit trail of all communications is an important part of both legal compliance and improving your critical event management strategy. Since smartphones are ubiquitous, it’s important that the platform work seamlessly with all operating systems in order to receive an accurate audit trail.

Communicate Clearly When It Counts Most

Speed

Automation saves precious time and preserves essential resources by enabling you to deliver millions of alerts simultaneously. Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) can instantly send geo-targeted warnings to people in the threat zone. Look for an emergency alerting system that offers message builders for pre-created scenarios with corresponding instructions and contact groups, so they’re ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Relevance

It’s vital to get the right information to the right people at the right time. You’re better equipped to do so when you have a system that uses geo-targeting to alert anyone who may be in proximity to an active assailant event. This includes your response team, residents, employees and nearby businesses. You also need the ability to ensure government workers who are scheduled to come onto the premises receive the alert to avoid the area.

Usability

The stress of potential violence is not the time for frustrating technology. Look for an intuitive interface, reusable templates and easy-to-use features. A well-designed system will enable officials to deliver and receive information quickly so they can make well-informed decisions. Navigation options must be clear. Important buttons and actions should be easily identifiable to avoid the risk of miscommunications. Ask for a trial period so you can do a test run to see how well the system performs.

Adapt to Improve the Odds

Customization

Every function should be customizable on both ends of the alert – for the sender and the receiver. This gives agencies the greatest likelihood of protecting people – and simultaneously empowering people to take steps to protect themselves. For agencies, customization can mean adapting templates, message content and features to activate for specific types of events or alerts. Agencies can also brand their alert program with language such as: “Salem Alerts for South Salem.” This builds familiarity and confidence, so that when citizens receive the alert, they know it’s from a source they can trust. For recipients, customization enables them to choose how they want to receive certain alerts. For example, they can opt to receive emergency alerts via text and mobile/landline calls while receiving nonemergency messages via email.

Multilingual

In an emergency situation like an active assailant, it’s imperative alerts be understood. Choose a provider that can handle translation and multilingual messaging so your instructions can be acted upon quickly and recipients can stay safe.

Learn more about how the right critical communications technology can help agencies keep communities informed and safe during an emergency in this ebook.