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.

A Great Story on Wireless Emergency Alerts

Here’s a story about how Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) – using the FEMA IPAWS system helped save lives during Sunday’s tornadoes across the Midwest.

In addition to cheering on the WEA system, there are two points we want to make:

1) Local public safety officials can use this same system for other imminent threats to life and property.  A Hyper-Reach Express account is all you need.  Just call us and we’ll tell you how.

2) WEA messages probably don’t reach much more than 1/2 the US population at this point.  They work on more recent mobile phones (not just smartphones!) but older folks and those with older phones won’t get those messages.  So using a system like Hyper-Reach can close the gap between what WEA can cover and what WEA can’t.


Reactions to Hyper-Reach at APCO Atlantic

We were at the APCO Atlantic conference this week on Cape Cod.  Lots of fun and interest and we appreciate the hospitality of those folks.

On the exhibit floor we were doing demos to clients of competitive systems (you know who they are).

Here are some of the comments we got (not quite verbatim, since my memory is not that precise, but the key words are all there) :

– Wow!

– This is the easiest system out there.

– So much easier than what we’re using.

Those are the three comments I can remember.

Now each of the competitors that these folks use are fine companies, but based on these comments, it’s clear that we’ve managed to make our menus simpler and easier to get through.  Which is important when you need to send an emergency message.

How To Insure Access to Your Emergency Alert Registration Data

Some Emergency Notification vendors apparently refuse to provide the registration data they’ve collected from the public.  We think that’s just wrong, since the public registered for a service offered by the community.  The vendor is just a means to that end.

If you want to maintain access to this data so you have the freedom to switch vendors when you want (and we think you should), below we offer some contract language you may want to include in your agreement with that vendor.  It specifies that the vendor must transfer the registration data to the successor vendor you switch to.

We’ve tried to address any objections you might hear from them, such as security, liability, etc.  Let us know if you hear any objections we haven’t covered.

Caveat – We are not lawyers and this isn’t legal advice, so you may want to get this reviewed by your attorney.

Transfer of Registration Data

Notwithstanding anything to the contrary, if Customer/Licensee/Client terminates this Agreement and contracts with an alternative service provider (“Alternate Service Provider”), Company/Licensor/Vendor agrees to transfer to Alternate Service Provider all data collected from members of the general public, including, but not limited to, names, addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses and other contact information (“Registration Data”) collected by Company/Licensor/Vendor during the term of this Agreement, subject to the following conditions:

  1. Customer/Licensee/Client notifies and requests transfer by Company/Licensor/Vendor within 90 days of the termination of this Agreement;
  2. Customer/Licensee/Client verifies and certifies to Company/Licensor/Vendor that the data security measures in use by Alternative Service Provider are reasonable and sufficient for the security of the Registration Data;
  3. Customer/Licensee/Client indemnifies and holds harmless Company/Licensor/Vendor for any use or misuse of the Registration Data by Alternative Service Provider;
  4. Company/Licensor/Vendor transfers such data within 60 days of notice by Customer/Licensee/Client;
  5. Formats of the data shall in CVS, XML or other similarly accepted and non-proprietary data formats generally used for data transfers.   If data is encrypted, it will be encrypted with a publicly-available technology and all needed documentation for its decryption will be provided to Alternate Service Provider.  Transmission will be via FTP or standard CD or DVD disks.
  6. Failure of Company/Licensor/Vendor to comply with this provision will result in a payment by Company/Licensor/Vendor to Customer/Licensee/Client of $3 per Registration Data record as liquidated damages.