Things You Didn’t Know Your Emergency Notification System Could Do: Message Escalation

6 Minute Read

In our newest blog series, we’ll be highlighting a variety of things that you perhaps didn’t realize your emergency notification system could do to support your organization’s readiness, response and resilience. Our first topic: Message Escalation.


Imagine this scenario:

You are the staffing coordinator at a local hospital. There has been a major medical emergency in the community and an influx of trauma patients are being sent to your facility. Short-staffed, all onsite personnel are already being utilized, and you are in need of five additional doctors, twice as many nurses, another x-ray technician, a burn specialist, and several others. Stat!

While your organization may not be a member of the healthcare community, a very similar scenario could play out during an IT disruption, employee health and safety threat (e.g., Ebola, pandemic influenza, or active shooter), natural disaster, or other large-scale critical event. These are when the message escalation capabilities of your emergency notification service come into play.

Escalations, in a nutshell, provide the speed and intelligence to mobilize on- and off-duty personnel, volunteers and others, so you can fill certain staffing needs, headcount requirements, or skilled positions when necessary. Primary contacts are alerted first. If the required number of responses isn’t received within a specific timeframe, secondary groups are then notified. Then, on down the line it goes.

In our healthcare scenario, you could use your emergency notification system’s escalation tool in this way:

First, set up a message such as this:

“There is a Level 4 emergency. Five additional doctors are needed at the hospital immediately. Are you able to respond?”

Response #1: Yes, I can report.
Response #2: No, I cannot report at this time.

Next, select your notification system’s escalation feature. This will prompt you to define the tiers of groups to send your alert to, as well as the time period between the messages.

In this scenario, you have decided that you want to send your notification to the following groups in this escalation path:

1. Trauma Team
2. Emergency Department Staff
3. All Doctors on Staff

You have also determined that if you do not get the ten positive responses that you need from group one, you would like the message escalated to group two after 15 minutes.

Once you enter your message and launch the alert, the message is sent only to Tier 1, your Trauma Team. If you get the sufficient number of responses from your Trauma Team, no one else is contacted. If you do not, the message is sent to your second tier, the Emergency Department Staff, after 15 minutes. If you still haven’t received the required responses after 15 more minutes have elapsed, your message is sent to Tier 3, All Doctors on Staff.

As recipients reply to the message, they will receive distinct message responses based on their unique response. For example, if someone responds “Yes, I can report,” then they receive a message that you have prefilled, such as:

“Thank you for your response. Please report to Zone 1 of the Emergency Department immediately, or call 1-800-555-5555 for more information.”

If someone responds “Yes, I can report,” AFTER the quota of required doctors has already been filled, then they receive a message that you have prefilled, such as:

“Thank you for your response. We have enough doctors to meet our needs at this time.”

Utilizing your notification service’s escalation feature prevents you from having too many or too few responders, plus it helps you prioritize the groups to which messages are sent. It also saves your organization precious time in emergencies, when time is not on its side.