Hyper-Reach Releases Support for Haitian Creole

With our use of Google Translate (which supports 109 languages across the world), Amazon Polly (highly realistic text to speech) and other technologies, Hyper-Reach offers best-in-class language support.

Recently, we developed support for Haitian Creole for a specific customer and are making that available to all Hyper-Reach customers at no additional cost.  So if your community has a large number of Haitian Creole speakers and you want to know more about this new capability, contact your Hyper-Reach sales or support account representative. 

And if you’re looking for a mass notification service that can  support all of your residents, regardless of what language they speak, click here to get a quick demonstration of the Hyper-Reach system. 

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Being Ready For Emergencies On a Tight Budget

People experience disasters in different ways. And there are lots of reasons why.  Poverty is something that both affects people’s ability to prepare for emergencies and the consequences they suffer when an event strikes. 

As a Red Cross spokesman put it in The Atlantic in 2019:

“Disasters, for most communities, exacerbate already existing issues, which is why we often see in shelters what we sometimes refer to as ‘the least, the last, and the lost.’ The people who had the least, who were the last to get services, who were already at the end, who were lost beforehand, especially financially.”

Because we’re in the notification business, we focus on the preparation side of things. So we want to offer ways to prepare that are affordable to as many people as possible.  

Unfortunately, much of the preparedness advice that’s provided by emergency management agencies to the general public fails to take residents’ economic circumstances and capacities into account. One list we saw of emergency supplies, for example, included relatively expensive items like generators, sleeping bags, and even simple things like granola which is much more expensive per cup than other cereals. 

So we’ve gathered some tips for disaster preparation that most folks can afford.  Feel free to include these in the advice you provide for your residents.  (Note: we’ve written this with reliability in mind. It should be readable by about 75% of US adults):

First things first. Think about what you need and prioritize. You can start with an online list of what to have in a disaster supply kit and then focus on what you really need. For example, the Ready.gov website offers this page that starts with water and food (your first priorities) and goes from there.  

Make your supplies play double duty. You don’t need to have emergency supplies that are completely separate from what you use every day.  Having a few days extra food on hand means you’ve got something for dinner that you can also use in an emergency.  Clothing and bedding can be used every day, and still provide what you need when you have to evacuate or hunker down at your house.  The key is to know what you’ll take or use when there’s a disaster. 

Keep it cheap.  

There are many ways you can keep down the cost of emergency supplies.

1. Cheap food that’s good for you.  You might not have fancy meals during an emergency, but there are many foods that will feed you well for pennies a meal:

  • Canned beans
  • Frozen vegetables
  • Canned vegetables

Yes, you want to mostly have shelf-stable foods, but we include frozen vegetables because experts suggest having 3 days’ of food on hand for emergencies. Without electricity, your frozen veggies might be thawed by day 2 or 3, but you can still eat them, even raw, which you can’t do with meats or some other foods.

Compared to chicken nuggets or pizza, they may not taste great, but they’re better than an empty stomach and are often better for you. 

2. Get basic supplies vs. fancy packaging.  Here’s an example.  Instead of a first aid kit that might cost $15 – $30, get a box of store brand band aids in different sizes, a roll of bandages and some alcohol and spend less money. Put it all in a baggie and store it where you can easily find it. Or split it up and use half for everyday use and stash the other half for emergencies. 

3. Look for sales. When sales come up, keep your eyes open for the things you don’t have. Scan the clearance sections of the seasonal items. Camping items go on sale at the end of summer, back packs after back to school, light sticks after Halloween, candles at Christmas, basic household supplies after the New Year. 

4. Do It Yourself. You don’t need to buy bottled water. Wash out used plastic milk and soda bottles and refill them with tap water. 

5. Go to the dollar store. Your local dollar or discount store has basic first aid equipment. Kit staples such as adhesive bandages, gauze, face masks, gloves, cleaning supplies, batteries, flashlights, etc., can all be found at lower prices. These stores are also a good place to find coloring books and crayons, puzzles, toys, books and games to keep kids occupied during a long-term emergency event. 

6. Get it used. Thrift stores, yard sales and Craigslist are great resources for all kinds of things like sleeping bags, lanterns, etc.

7. Get it free. Some states have free resources for emergency kits or training. Call your local emergency management agency or search online to ask about these kinds of resources in your area.  

Sign up for your community’s emergency alerts

Now that you’re more ready for an emergency, you want to know as soon as possible if there’s one coming.  So sign up for emergency alerts to give you time to gather the supplies you need. 

Emergency alerts are usually provided for free by your local government and give you messages by text or voice, so you can get them on any kind of phone. 

Emergency Messaging at Night

After the huge tornado disaster in December, we were surprised to find out that tornadoes at night are roughly 2.5 times more deadly than daytime tornadoes.  And while there are lots of reasons offered for that difference, it seems that no one really knows why nighttime tornadoes kill more people. 

Whatever the cause, a lack of warning did not seem an issue in December.  As the the NYTimes reported: 

 …if anything went wrong before the storms hit, it was more a lack of response to warnings than a lack of information about the dangers. Severe weather warnings began on Thursday and were issued throughout Friday in a host of states. Sirens woke residents in some areas late Friday and early Saturday to warn them that a tornado was near and that they should take shelter away from windows.

Steven Strader of Villanova University put it  this way: “Adequate warning does not always ensure that people will take shelter, can take shelter, or know the quality of their shelter (home)…” 

Since some of the explanations for the higher mortality of nighttime tornadoes might also apply to other emergency situations at night, it got us thinking about the implications for nighttime emergency alerts. The explanations below don’t seem to be specific to tornadoes. They could affect the response to any alerts that are sent out at night.

1. Access to emergency alerts (do not disturb settings).

Most smartphones have “do not disturb” settings that silence notifications except from specific callers.  While we don’t know how prevalent this is, it appears that at least some smartphones will allow users to silence notifications from WEA alerts. 

2. Fatigue and response to emergency alerts.

Although it varies widely, many people are tired at night and fatigue is a known factor in impairing executive function

3. Sleep inertia.

Beyond simple fatigue is a phenomenon known as sleep inertia, which occurs when someone is woken from sleep. Sleep inertia’s symptoms include grogginess, impaired motor dexterity, decreases in cognitive ability and a sense of fatigue.  These symptoms can last 15-60 minutes after waking and even longer for some people, preventing folks from effectively processing the information in emergency alerts.  

4. The impact of alcohol.

About 30% of American adults average at least one drink per night, while 10% average an astonishing 10 drinks per day. Alcohol consumption is not limited to nighttime, of course, but many people don’t start drinking until after the workday.  Since it takes 2 hours to metabolize a single pint of beer, alcohol must be considered an important potential factor in processing emergency alerts. 

5. Darkness as a factor in interpreting nighttime alerts.

Although we couldn’t find any statistics, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence suggesting that people attempt to confirm some alerts at night by simply looking outdoors.  This is cited as one reason for excess tornado fatalities, since the darkness of nighttime makes it difficult to see funnel clouds, etc.  But the same might easily apply to other environmental hazards. 

6. Anxiety, vulnerability and nyctophobia.

Although most people grow out of their childhood fear of the dark, there’s no question that at least some people continue to feel increased levels of fear, anxiety and doubt at nighttime. And when the condition is severe, it’s called “nyctophobia”

7. Inability to get confirmation information.

It’s a well-documented fact that most people attempt to get confirmation of emergency information from multiple sources.  But when the alert comes in the middle of the night, there are fewer sources of such confirmation.  

Of course, tornadoes are not the only emergencies that can happen at night.  Wildfires, chemical leaks, explosions, and earthquakes are just a few of the situations we can think of that might trigger an alert sent at nighttime. 

Given the factors that can affect how messages are processed at night, what should emergency managers do to make nighttime alerts more effective in their communities?

1. Tell people to enable emergency alerts at night.

  • Suggest they check the Do Not Disturb settings on their phone to ensure that they allow Wireless Emergency Alerts.
  • Give them the caller IDs you use for emergency alerts and ask residents to include them on their list of “favorites”

2. Ensure that your messages are clear and compelling.

There are multiple reasons that people might not be able to understand your messages clearly, including fatigue, sleep inertia, and alcohol.  Since the average American reads at the eighth grade level under normal circumstances, you want to aim for something lower than that.  Dumb your message down and make it crystal clear using as simple language as possible.

3. Repeat messages.

People are looking for confirmation information and while you may not be able to put them in contact with their neighbors, “repetition is the mother of learning”.  

4. Set expectations (e.g. you won’t be able to see this coming, etc.)

If it’s applicable, let folks know they won’t be able to see outside and confirm what you’ve told them.  Just be authoritative and tell them what you want them to do. 

5. Provide links to confirming information.

Since people want confirmation, if you have access to another source – for example, something on the web – you can include links to that so they can get some other source that reinforces your message. 

6. Let them know about resources to give a sense of empowerment.

People feel more vulnerable at night, so if you can do it, let them know how they can get additional help or help themselves.  For example, if you’re issuing a “shelter-in-place” message, suggest they gather the items they might need like food, water, etc. in the area they would use for shelter. 

7. Tell them what to do.

More than anything else, be clear about what you want them to do, even when the situation is potentially ambiguous. As the book Emergency Alert and Warning Systems says:

People also want specific language that gives precise and non-ambiguous information about the area(s) at risk, how much time they have to engage in protective actions before impact, and the source of the message…. facts relating to the hazard need to be stated “authoritatively, confidently, and with certainty, even in circumstances in which there is ambiguity…explain that…experts agree on the protective actions people should take.

After reviewing this topic, it seems to us that more research needs to be done in this area, since there are many dangerous incidents that can happen at night and many circumstances that make nighttime emergencies different from daytime ones.  We’ve tried to identify the factors that can affect how your alerts might be received at night and how you can adapt to make them more effective.