How Not to Use Web Links in Emergency Alerts

Last week, we got this SMS/text message on our Samsung Galaxy 4.  So we clicked on the link.  You can see the page in the next screenshot (actual size).

There are any number of problems with the usefulness of the linked page.  Let’s list some of them:

  1. It’s unreadable on a smartphone.  While the phone let’s me expand the view, that’s not a great solution;
  2. There’s too much going on in this page.  As the receiver of the text, I’m interested in the “missing vulnerable adult”, not general press releases or other alerts;
  3. The actual alert I’m responding to is not on this page.  And worse…
  4. The alert I’m looking for is not on the next page (I clicked “Click here to view more”).

Now a link to a page with a picture of the “missing vulnerable adult” or a white Ford Winstar (my wife can’t tell one car model from another) might have been very helpful.  And after going back through other alerts, at least some of the prior links went to a page that was specific to the alert, so maybe this was just a simple mistake.  But this case illustrates a few principles that alert authors should keep in mind:

  • Text alerts are going to a phone, so format your linked pages to be readable on a smartphone screen;
  • Email alerts may also be going to a phone or a tablet.  Recent consumer surveys show that more than half of Internet access is on smartphones.  And – according to – more than half of all email opens are on a mobile device.  So even subscribers who get their alerts by email may be reading the alerts on a small screen.
  • Make the link specific to the alert.  Consumer research shows that click-through rates for most short messages (text and tweets) are quite low – often in the range of 1% – 2%.  So the odds of getting a recipient to click twice are very low.
  • Make the content obvious.  Don’t make your recipient search for the information they are looking for.  You want them to see it immediately.


NYS screenshot 1


nys screenshot 2NYS screenshot 3

Loss of Volunteers Threatens Rural Emergency Response

This article suggests that rural areas in America (the article focuses on western and midwestern states) are losing EMS services as volunteer EMTs are retiring.

This is a problem that goes deeper than EMS. Volunteer firefighters are also short in supply, says this story. And rural hospitals are in trouble across the country, especially in states that are not expanding Medicaid.

All of which means that rural America, which supplies much of the food and fuel that the country depends on, may be headed for a state of emergency.

We sell emergency notification services, and we think that’s important. But we also think it’s important to support the folks who are there for victims when emergencies happen.