Joseph Pader lived in Soda Canyon near Napa, California. When wildfires threatened his home, he was lucky enough to get a warning. At around 3 AM, he received an alert from the Napa County Sheriff’s Office—but by then, it was too late to leave. At around 6 PM, he watched his family home burn down. It took ten minutes.
During an active shooter situation at Ohio State University in November 2016, the university's Emergency Management Team sent out a tweet: “Buckeye Alert: Active Shooter on campus. Run Hide Fight. Watts Hall. 19th and College.— OSU Emergency Mngmnt (@OSU_EMFP).”
With only 140 characters, the team didn't have much room for details, and some Twitter users were confused by the words “Run Hide Fight.” This three-word directive was part of a video and campaign to teach people how to respond to an active shooter situation. But if Ohio State students didn't know the background and additional information that came with the three short words, their confusion was understandable. Run where? Hide when? Fight how?
Disasters and emergencies like these are an unfortunate reality. Communication during these events has often been limited, ineffective, and unclear. We can do better, we must do better, and technology can help.
Two Way Communication
Sending out emergency alerts and instruction is only half of the solution in a crisis: two-way communication between individuals and groups speeds up crisis response and recovery while keeping everyone informed in real time. Emergency-response leaders need the ability to send alerts, receive updates and pictures, and securely chat with employees or supervisors on the scene. Simply alerting people to a crisis is not enough; resolving issues that arise and becoming functional again is the ultimate goal.
Alerting from the Scene
It's impossible for a centrally located employee or organization to know of every crisis that impacts their facilities. In many cases, people in the field know about a crisis first. For quick and effective crisis resolution, the power to alert must be in everyone's hands so anyone on the scene of a crisis can send out an alert. For example: one of the largest hotel chains in the world empowers each general manager with a mobile phone alerting system so crisis response teams can be easily notified using pictures and location details from the scene of the crisis.
For a mass communication system to be reliable, it has to be located in the cloud…this means keeping servers and phone systems off site. If the critical communication systems are located on-premise, they are useless if the facility is hit by a disaster such as a hurricane of fire. A cloud-based solution ensures everyone can stay informed and up-to-date even when disaster strikes.
While phone alerts and tweets are a great start, multimodal communication makes crisis response far more effective. In the event of an earthquake or terrorist attack, sending out an alert via SMS, phone, email, and app push in tandem ensures that everyone—from the employee on the scene to the team leader across town—remains informed. Nobody should have to wait near a land line or computer for updated information or instruction: communication should be multiplatform, flexible, and instantaneous.
The AlertSense alerting and collaboration platform utilizes all of these technologies to help you keep your people and facilities safe. By taking advantage of a technology that everyone has access to—the smartphone—AlertSense ensures nobody is cut off from information they need. We have refined our mobile platform to simplify emergency reporting and communication by placing the power of crisis preparedness in everyone's pocket…and whether they are on the scene of the crisis or across the country, AlertSense can help individual employees and entire companies alike be resilient in the event of a crisis.