If you have corporate or education clients, there’s a good chance you’re developing emergency notification systems for them.
No matter what type of mass notification systems a campus uses, one critical step must not be forgotten: the creation and delivery of the actual content of the emergency notification.
The following experts provide some sage advice on making MNEC messages count.
1. Repeat Audible Emergency Announcements
According to Bill Dunne, director of emergency preparedness for the UCLA Medical Center, during emergencies, the stress and commotion of the situations often limit people’s ability to comprehend an announcement. Because of this, an audible emergency alert message must be repeated clearly several times.
“It could be the clearest message that, on a normal day they would understand,” he says. “But unless you say the message three times and say it clearly, because of all of the external factors and anxiety, people may not understand it.”
2. Messages Must Be Clear, Originate From an Authority
According to Karla Lemmon, Honeywell’s product manager for Instant Alert, a phone message should be easily understood, concise and to the point. The message should always include the date, time and name of the person sending the alert.
“It should also be recorded in the sender’s own voice, if possible,” says Lemmon. “This verifies to the contact that the alert is legitimate and can also provide a sense of calm and familiarity in the event of a crisis situation.”
Natasha Rabe, chief business officer for Blackboard Connect Inc., says, “No one is including the time that [SMS text messages] are initiated. You might have an incident at 10:04 a.m. and it gets cleared up at 10:30 a.m., but your message doesn’t reach your recipient until 11 a.m.”
This causes confusion. Also, according to Rabe, some carriers allow campuses to break up the message so it can be delivered in three or more installments. The problem with this is a campus constituent might receive the second message before the first. Without a message initiation timestamp, the recipient might not be able to figure out which portion of the message goes first. [Note: Long emergency alert text messages are not recommended because of this issue as well as the fact that lengthy ones slow down the sending process.]
3. Keep the Length of the Text Messages Short
“Depending on how the carrier’s system works, some of them allow you to enter only 110 characters (including spaces),” says Rabe.
UCLA allows for 160 characters. All that is left open to be filled in at the last minute is the location (which takes 15 characters).
An example of a text message used by UCLA (and other campuses around the nation):
Emergency Message – Campus Fire
Major fire at (location). Avoid area, evacuate nearby buildings. Tune to AM 1630 or www.ucla.edu for more information.