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The Evolution of Emergency Communication Technology

emergency communication tools RedFlag

March 16, 2023 Posted by in Mass Notification

Emergency Communication Systems Keeps People Safe and Informed

As the world grows more unpredictable, potential emergency situations continue to multiply (ICM Annual Crisis Report). From natural disasters like inclement weather and building fires to man-made threats like chemical spills, active shooters, and terrorist attacks, the scope of potential emergencies in the modern workplace increases daily.

Pair this volatile environment with an endless surge of communication technology and the question becomes, “How do you cut through the noise and tell people what they need to know to stay safe?”

The History of Emergency Alert Technology Over the Years

Early notification systems included church bells, post riders, and even town criers. The American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow enshrined one of the most famous examples of emergency notification in his poem, Paul Revere’s Ride.

Paul Revere's ride reflects early Emergency Communication Technology

Paul Revere’s Ride

He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry-arch
Of the North-Church-tower, as a signal-light,—
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm

Interestingly, this famous account of Paul Revere’s ride to alert the Americans to the British advance demonstrates an early example of “interoperability,” or, the capacity for communication between different systems. Today this applies to different computer technologies such as a Mass Notification System and a Building Fire Control System. In Paul Revere’s case, it was a signal lantern and a rider ready to carry the vital message into the night. Emergency Communication Technology has come a long way!

With the development of new technology such the telegraph, developed by Samuel Morse and others in the 1830s, authorities could communicate instantly between two reception stations. Relying on Morse code, these messages were necessarily limited and couldn’t account for mass dissemination of the information relayed.

NOTE: This problem wasn’t solved until people gained personal access to fast, reliable means of communication. Today, everyone carries a smart phone in their pocket with a variety of ways to send and receive information. That’s why top organizations rely on mass communication software like RedFlag’s industry leading notification system to keep their people safe and informed in real-time.

Emergency Communication Technology That Works

During the early 1900s, widespread use of telephone and radio communication gradually eclipsed the telegraph. By 1945, as WWII drew to a close, there were five people for every telephone in the U.S. That’s approximately 28 million phones across the country (The Conversation)!

It was also around this time that Civil Defense sirens came into popular usage for emergency communication. The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 highlighted the vital need for advanced warning systems operating across the country. Even today, these systems remain in widespread use for alerting the public to weather emergencies.

As you can imagine, however, even with prerecorded messages playing on a loop, outdoor warning sirens can’t provide two-way communication with those in harm’s way. Additionally, sirens are slow to relay updated information in real-time. These same weaknesses apply to the use of automated phone trees, which are surprisingly still in use in some industries today.

The advent of the internet and wireless communication gave rise to the use of email technology for an emergent communications system.

The greatest drawback from this approach today is obvious — open rate. The average employee in most industries regularly receives over 100 emails a day. Ask yourself how many of these emails do you open? How many do you delete without giving them a second thought? And that’s not counting the emails you simply never see. When an emergency strikes, you can’t afford for people to miss or ignore life-saving information.

Fortunately, many new options exist today to help you keep your people safe and informed when it matters most.

As Jon Evenson writes in his article on the relationship between emerging technology and emergency preparedness, “Advances in technology, combined with the need for immediate information, have led to significant changes in the design, installation, and capabilities of emergency communication systems.”

The Best Application for Emergency Communication Technology

There’s a reason FEMA says that “during an incident, information is as critically important to people as food or water.” Accurate, timely information saves lives. This has led to the development of emergency communication technology that can:

    • Disseminate accurate information across multiple channels (e.g., phone calls, emails, texts, social posts, app alerts)
    • Adjust instructions in real-time to changing events on the ground
    • Target instructions by locality and employee needs using GPS mapping
    • Interface with other emergency alert systems already established (e.g., fire alarm systems, first responder networks, government warning systems)
    • Allow for two-way communication with those in harm’s way

BTW: If you’re interested in utilizing one system to meet all these needs, take a look at this award-winning mass notification system by RedFlag.

Despite all these capabilities, the best emergency communication systems know that they’ve never fully arrived. Technology advances every day, with new media emerging that changes the landscape of how people communicate. Add to this the volatility of threats in today’s society, and it’s clear that emergency communication technology must continually evolve to keep people safe.

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