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Utilize your mass notification system for heat emergencies

The dog days of summer have continued wreaking havoc across the United States with record-breaking temperatures. Many major metropolitan areas are experiencing heat indexes of 105–115 degrees. For many jurisdictions, this triggers the need to open cooling centers and provide information to the public about protective action. As we enter what has the potential to be the hottest days of summer, now is the time to think about how your mass notification system can be used to share information with first responders, public officials and citizens.

Contacting Citizens – personal preparedness, cooling centers, utility usage

Using your mass notification system to remind citizens about personal preparedness is a great way to reach out to a community in crisis. You can stress the importance of staying hydrated, limiting outdoor or strenuous activities and spending time in air-conditioned places like stores, libraries, and public buildings. Invite residents to check on friends, family, and neighbors. Remind citizens to stay informed by tuning into local media stations, newspapers, and websites for weather updates.

As things get worse, and if you need to open cooling centers, a mass notification system can help with the daunting task of letting citizens know it is available – where it’s located, transportation options, hours of operation and what services will be provided.

If it becomes necessary to ask citizens to voluntarily decrease water usage, mass notification is a way to reach a large audience quickly and efficiently. Use your system sensibly and methodically to keep citizens informed.

Internal Communications – cooling center openings, first responders, public officials

In addition to reaching large populations quickly, mass notification systems may be used to contact internal resources too. For example, before cooling centers are opened to the public, you need to coordinate their set up. Finding out who is available and activating the teams can be made easier with a notification system.

Inform emergency responders and 911 operators that your heat plan has been activated and that they should expect an increase in the number of calls from citizens about heat related issues. Take this opportunity to remind first responders to take care of themselves so that they can effectively take care of others too.

Public officials are another group that would benefit from being informed through mass notification during heat emergencies. Along with being up to date on your emergency plan, they may wish to visit cooling shelter locations personally to thank staff and to visit with citizens.

“This summer’s excessive severe weather – some of it deadly – has really awakened us to a much bigger issue that has more to do with how we live today. After all, dangerous and deadly weather is as old as weather itself. But how we learn about it before it potentially harms us largely depends on how we communicate, and how we communicate is changing about as fast as the weather around here.”

Von Pinnon, editor of The Forum, Fargo North Dakota.