May 5, 2022 Posted by Pocketstop in Mass Notification Social Share
A custom emergency alert system can be a huge benefit to your staff and your business. The official Emergency Alert System (EAS for short) is how authorized federal, state, and local agencies can send alerts that relate to public safety. The goal is to communicate with the American people at critical moments, across multiple channels, in mere seconds. It’s part of the national Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) that encompasses broadcast stations, cable TV networks, and cell phones.
A brief history of the Emergency Alert System
You may remember the Emergency Broadcast System (EBS) from you childhood; it was often tested during the broadcast day on old-school television stations. However, the system goes back even further to 1951, when President Truman established a “control of electronic radiation” system, known as CONELRAD. It was meant to broadcast on pre-determined radio frequencies to keep the public informed. This system lasted until 1963, when it was replaced by the Emergency Broadcast System. In 1995, the Emergency Alert System was created for today’s technology.
The difference between the national EAS and your custom EAS
The 21st century has, unfortunately, given us many examples of the need for a custom emergency alert system: September 11th, Sandy Hook, Hurricane Katrina, and January 6, 2021, have shown the need for immediate, real-time communications to keep the American people informed and consistently up to date. Also, if possible, it should provide a way to find safety or to stay safe.
That’s the EAS macro version. You can create a micro version for your business, in order to alert and protect your staff. The need for an EAS can also hit close to home in the following emergency situations:
- Severe weather
- Communication network failure
- Active shooter
- Criminal activity
- Machine and IT malfunctions
- Security breaches
The government has authorized specific federal, state and local organizations to send these emergency messages to locations near you. These include:
- Presidential alerts: of course, for national emergencies.
- Severe weather alerts: this is in cooperation with NOAA Weather Radio, which is a network of stations that monitor local weather.
- AMBER and Blue alerts: broadcast in the case of a child abduction, or involving injuries or fatalities of law officers. These can be issued by state and local law enforcement agencies.
- Public safety alerts: issued by local emergency managers.
Drilling down further: how are you positioned for a custom emergency alert system for your business? Many organizations place this as a low priority, assuming that technology like this can be expensive or even unavailable to non-government entities. In fact, there are very affordable options available to all types of organizations and businesses.
When creating your custom emergency alert system, keep these strategies in mind:
- First, form a team. The government has created organizations just to keep the EAS working properly; for instance, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for disasters, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service (NWS) for weather-related emergencies. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) creates EAS guidelines, and the President is authorized to activate the EAS when deemed necessary. You can form a team within your own organization, giving each member a specific role, in order to make your EAS effective. With the proper instruction and practice, the team can come together at a moment’s notice in the event of an emergency. Duties can include creating alerts in advance, gathering contact information (staff contacts), deciding upon rescue and survival steps, and determining the criteria for when the EAS will be activated. With periodic tests and practice, the EAS will be executed seamlessly when needed, which can save lives, money, and reputation.
- Be sure that your EAS can be accessed via multiple channels. These days, your staff may not all be in the same location or working from the same type of devices. Also, in a disaster scenario, your dependable main IT system may fail or you could be experiencing a power outage. Despite these roadblocks, the ultimate goal remains the same: to reach all of your people in seconds via the most effective way possible. As a result, your EAS should have a multi-channel delivery system. That means your alerts can be communicated by phone, text, email, social media, push notifications, and also in an emergency alert app. You’ll need to reach people where they are, in real time.
- Your EAS must feature two-way communication. It’s not only about you sending emergency alerts. You also want to hear from your people, especially if they may be in trouble. Hearing from your staff in the midst of an emergency can give you a better idea of what’s going on and how to respond. They should be able to send texts, videos and photos so that the situation becomes clearer. It also gives your staff a chance to engage as well as be informed. In the heat of the moment, they may have more insight into the situation than you do. Two-way communication is a must in any emergency.
- Perform regular tests. Practice makes perfect. The more you test and instill practice drills, the more your staff will know how to use the system and even remember that the system exists in the event of an emergency. As well, mistakes can be corrected, questions can be answered, issues can be addressed, and miscommunication can be eliminated. Make practice drills a part of your business continuity plan.
A fool-poof way to create a custom EAS for your business: invest in a mass-notification system.
Create your EAS with a platform that is designed specifically to help you. For instance, RedFlag is a multi-channel communication system that allows you to write one alert and share it via multiple channels with everybody on your lists. This communication highway covers a voice call, email, SMS text messages, signage, Microsoft Teams, and even via loudspeaker and flashing lights if needed.
The alerts you send will be timely, personalized and received in real time. You can easily segment your recipient lists into custom groups, no matter the size – or even meant to reach just one person. The platform allows you to set your own preferences and customize how your recipients receive the messages. That adds to the peace of mind that you are more than likely going to reach them in an emergency.
Non-negotiable when choosing your system: two-way communication. Allow your recipients to text you about issues, as well as send urgent questions and feedback. RedFlag, for instance, offers Two-Way Chat, Polling, and Acknowledgement, so that you are not just wondering about what is happening to your people. They are staying in communication with you throughout the emergency.
The ultimate benefit is to be able to save time — you are simply reaching everyone you need to reach at the touch of one button, even directly from Outlook or from iPhone or Android apps. You get to manage all of your notifications from one user-friendly dashboard. In the end, you’ll be able to easily generate detailed reports and even import user data from third-party software.
Bottom line: A two-way-channel mass notification system allows you to deliver real-time, urgent alerts to groups of any size. In the midst of an emergency, you’ll gain useable, practical insight into what is happening in the field, while being able to communicate with and stay in touch with your staff. This may help you make practical, safety-related decisions when emergency events occur.
Find out more about how RedFlag can help you create an emergency alert system for your business. Click here.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has online information about the Emergency Alert System. Click here.