How much could Massachusetts save by switching to Hyper-Reach?

Recently the state of Iowa did some research on what their communities are paying for emergency alert services.  Their homeland security people did a survey and concluded that the 53 counties that use these services pay about $600,000 per year, while another 46 counties don’t have such a service.

That got us thinking.  So we went to our database of 2,000+ cities and counties (for which we have pricing data on about 20%) and determined that all cities and counties in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are paying about $2MM per year – collectively – for emergency alert services.  That’s probably an underestimate, but we’ll use the data we have.

Based on the vendors that most of these Massachusetts communities use, we estimate that switching to Hyper-Reach would save about $600K – $1MM per year.  Since Hyper-Reach is easier to use and faster than most of the vendors used in Massachusetts, we think those savings are worth looking at.  You can buy a lot of lobster for that kind of cash.

Does Iowa Spend More for Emergency Notification than the US Average?

Recently, the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management released some data showing what many of their counties spend for emergency alert services.  The results are pretty interesting.

We omitted a few counties as representative (because the alert services they use are not as feature-rich) and came up with an average of $0.79 per household across Iowa.  That contrasts with a national average – based on our data – of $.60 per household.

But we might be comparing apples and oranges.

Our $.60/household number is at the county level only, and our database has more municipalities than counties, so it may be that in some parts of the country – the northeast, for example – emergency alert responsibilities are split between county and municipal agencies.  So we’ll need to dig into the numbers more deeply.

We also looked at the cost/household for each vendor reported.  The data show the most expensive vendor (Global Connect) at 2-3 times as much as the others and the least expensive vendors (Hyper-Reach and Inspiron) at about 35% less than the average.  But a caution here.  The sample sizes for those two vendors is small in this data.  We know that Hyper-Reach is generally about 25%-30% less than CodeRED and Everbridge, while our data for Inspiron nationwide show an average of about $0.52 per household.


Iowa Emergency Alert Spending by Vendor

Vendor Cost/HH/Year
 $       0.52
 $       0.52
 $       0.78
 $       0.83
Global Connect
 $       1.73


New Edition of Pricing Study Almost Ready

Last year we started a survey of Emergency Alert service pricing among public safety agencies across the US.  We got over 50 responses and were happy to be able to share this data with emergency managers, 911, law enforcement, fire departments and other public safety officials.

This year, we’ve take a different approach and have collected data across many sources, including public records, news stories and survey responses.  We’ve collected over 350 individual price points.   In context, that’s pretty impressive.  It’s more than 17% of the 2000+ communities (counties, cities, towns and states) we’ve identified as having an Emergency Alert system.  Statistically, we have to confess it doesn’t meet the standards of random selection, but it’s still a huge sample.

Some of the results were surprising to us.  We’ll be interested in what you think.

The importance of smartphones in Emergency Alert Registration

Recently, the US National Emergency Alert Registry asked some Facebook friends to test our Facebook-based registration page.  3/4ths of the people who responded tried it on their smartphones, although they didn’t specify the device.

Some other statistics help make the point:  57% of mobile users now have a smartphone and 23% of those do their web browsing exclusively or mostly on their phone.

Hyper-Reach and USNEAR are the only emergency alert registration pages which format for mobile devices automatically.  Most of the rest are pretty much unreadable on a smartphone.

With more than 40% of US households having no landline, how will you get those people registered if they can’t read the form?


The power of Google Maps

We use Google Maps as our primary way to allow geographic selection of people to call for emergency alerts.  So when you want to call all the houses within one mile of a an industrial accident, you’re using the Google Maps interface.

There are some obvious benefits to using what the NY Times called “the most detailed street atlas on earth”, including:

  • its familiarity to most people (70% of geographic searches on the Internet are done on Google),
  • the ability to use Street View, so you can actually see photos of the area you’re interested in,
  • the huge investment Google has put into both the data and the interface, and
  • 100% uptime, as scored by several Internet monitoring services.

A recent article in the NY Times magazine (Google’s Road Map to Global Domination) is a great read for geography nerds, with details about both Google and other industry players.  If you don’t have time for that one, this blog post by David Pogue (What Makes Google’s Maps So Good), is also very good.


Why Don’t All States Have a State-Wide Emergency Alert Signup Page?

This week, we were reminded that CO’s 9-1-1Foundation has a page that makes it much easier for Colorado residents to find the emergency notification sign-up page for their county.  It’s not perfect, but it’s a big improvement over a lot of the other promotional work we’ve seen in other states.  And we heard from a board member of that foundation that they’re planning to do an ad campaign to promote the page, which is great.

Because the US National Emergency Alert Registry has over 2,000 registration pages in its database, it’s not realistic to expect residents to scroll through so much to find their page (we’re working on a lookup function to solve that).  But Colorado has only about 60 listings, so it’s much easier to deal with – especially since most of these are at the county level.

Wireless-Only Majority by 2015?

We’ve just updated all our numbers on the trend toward “wireless-only” households, and the results are startling.

Based on our projections, the US will be a majority “wireless-only” nation by sometime in 2015.  We also took US Census projections of population changes to 2060 and estimate that we’ll be 70% wireless-only by 2020 and over 80% wireless-only by 2030.

The basis of these projections involves some guesswork, but here’s one reason why we might be underestimating:

Once most of the people you know no longer have a home telephone, why would you?

As the nation goes progressively wireless-only, how are we going to reach these people in an emergency?  WEA/IPAWS is certainly one answer, but cannot be used for many of the messages sent out by emergency managers.

We need to get people registered.

A lesson from “snowedoutatlanta”

A great story in the WSJ profiles a woman in Atlanta who creates a Facebook page to help folks stuck during the recent snowstorm.   Michelle Sollicito runs a small Facebook group, but decided to create a new one called “SnowedOutAtlanta” to help people share information.  According to the Journal, the group had 55,000 members by Friday.  Kudos to her.  Now, how can we – who specialize in getting useful information to the public in an emergency – help the next Michelle?


Registration woes and how to solve them

Why we’re proud to sponsor USNEAR:

Oswego, IL switched from one of our competitors to another (they should have called us to get a better price and superior service, but that’s another story).

That new company’s registration form rejected a perfectly valid address. USNEAR found a way to get the person registered!

We’re switching our registration forms to the same technology as USNEAR.  And rolling out a mobile-ready registration page and a Facebook registration page.

If you’re serious about emergency notification, you need to be serious about getting people registered.

Alerts to Help Prevent Infant Death

Kudos to Waukegan, IL, which used their emergency alert system to warn people of the dangers of sleeping with their infant.  There were three recent infant deaths in the past  three weeks.  This is a use of emergency alerts we haven’t heard about and we applaud that use.

Unfortunately, the key target audience for these messages probably won’t get them.  According to our model, about 37% of households in Lake County, IL, where Waukegan is located, are “wireless only”, meaning they don’t have a home phone.  And 25-34 year olds (the people who have infant children) are almost twice as likely not to have a home phone.

Without a home phone, the only way a “reverse 911” message gets to someone is if they register.  But we tried registering on Waukegan’s registration page using our Android smartphone and we couldn’t get to the page.  Since young people primarily use their phones to access the Internet, we’d guess that very few wireless-only young parents are registered with the emergency alert service.

Which means that more than half of the parents of infant children won’t get that message.   And that’s a shame, because the basic idea was a good one.

Which is one more reason why people should use the US National Emergency Alert Registry to sign up for their local emergency alert service.  USNEAR has a registration page formatted for mobile phones and will get the data transferred to Waukegan’s pages without a problem.