National Preparedness Month: 5 steps to a successful emergency notification system

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

FEMA has proclaimed September as National Preparedness Month. This year’s theme is “Be Disaster Aware, Take Action to Prepare.” September 2014 marks 10 years since hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne crisscrossed the state of Florida, 15 years since Hurricane Floyd made landfall in North Carolina and 25 years since Hurricane Hugo left its mark on the South Carolina coast. Naturally, the peak of hurricane season provides the most optimal time to promote disaster preparedness for not only hurricane season, but also for all disasters nationwide.

The most valuable lesson each of those storms provides for us today is that the time to prepare for the next hurricane or any other disaster event is now.

Taking the “All Hazards” preparedness approach is the everyday methodology at Emergency Communications Network (ECN.) With clients located in every region of the U.S. and Canada, our services and personnel are fully prepared to deliver multiple-disaster driven emergency – life safety notifications 24/7/365. We continually encourage our clients to instill that same level of preparedness within their CodeRED emergency notification system.

To assist our clients in this regard, we provide a 5-step approach to a successful and comprehensive emergency notification system. Figuratively speaking, a CodeRED emergency notification system is only one component of a total emergency alert and notification system. The five steps listed below are suggestions that will provide a good starting point for those who are in need. These steps are not intended to be all inclusive.National Preparedness Month

  1. Develop a Notification Plan – Your plan should include such things like who has the responsibility for maintaining plan and system components, who can launch messages and what will the system be used for. Plans should also contain template messages and provide trigger point for various stages of activation.  Remember to include measures to continually enhance your calling data as well as periodic system and end user testing.
  1. A System of Systems The term “Every Tool in the Tool Box” should come to mind when it necessitates the delivery of emergency life-safety messages to the public. Your plan should include every method of public delivery available to you within your jurisdiction. This should include geographically defined phone calls, text messages, emails, social media sites, TDD, IPAWS, mobile alerting applications, internal staff contact lists, siren systems, route alerting, media releases, etc. No plan should rely on just one mode of delivery.
  1. Include more than just technology Your technological devices will deliver the message to the public. A total emergency notification plan should also include the programmatic and methodical elements to make it a fully comprehensive effort. Identify and implement a strong public outreach program to increase public education about your emergency notification systems and how to ensure their contact information is listed. Consider news media (print and broadcast), fairs and expositions, billboards, publications, fliers for hotels/public venues, church bulletins and civic associations. Be creative and think outside the box. When making calls to the public always consider human behavior and public reaction to the message that is being delivered. Be aware of the amount of calls to be made, how long it should take to complete them and the time of day or night.
  1. Coordination of User Agencies – Coordination efforts are paramount to a community’s successful emergency notification system. Especially where multiple agencies have user access and individual responsibilities for notifications depending on the type of emergency incident. An all agency involvement in the development of the plan and system components provides the total buy-in and cohesiveness required for a critical public safety measure such as this. Consider a periodic monitoring session that includes a representative from each agency.
  1. Include Periodic Training, Testing and Exercises – The key to a successful emergency notification delivery under stressful and otherwise hurried conditions is heavily reliant on system and plan familiarization. Measures should be in place to ensure that everyone involved becomes familiar with their responsibilities in the plan. Periodic refresher training and system testing should be completed by all end users on a regular and systematic basis.

National Preparedness Month will conclude on September 30, 2014 with America’s PrepareAthon Day. This initiative is intended for citizens, businesses and government. We have attached the link below for more information on how to participate and to register. ECN will be participating and we encourage each of you to as well. We will be posting important preparedness resources on our Twitter and Facebook accounts throughout the month.

http://www.community.fema.gov/connect.ti/AmericasPrepareathon 

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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.

If you have anything you would like to ask him, please click here to email your question and he will address your question directly in our “Ask Don” blog.

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