Feature of the Month – Weather Alerts

You already know that Hyper-Reach provides automated weather alerts.  And unlike some of our competitors, we give you automated alerts without additional charge.

We’re featuring our weather alerts in this issue because those alerts are getting faster.  Much faster!

We’ve recently changed the way we get alerts from the National Weather Service. NWS offers multiple ways to send their alerts to services like Hyper-Reach. The protocols for these alerts are different and some of those protocols are faster than others.  

With the new protocols we’ve adopted, we’ll be sending weather alerts more than 10X faster.  And that’s important, because some types of weather alerts – such as tornado warnings – work much better the faster they are received. 

Integration with Nextdoor – What It Is and Why You Should Care

You may already know about the social media network called Nextdoor. Thousands of public agencies across the US are using it today to enhance their public communication in more than 7,000 areas in all 50 states. That’s because Nextdoor is different from other social media companies like Facebook and X: it’s locally-focused and designed for communication within a local community.  Another key difference – and the reason it’s great for public agencies – is that you can send messages to everyone on Nextdoor who lives in your jurisdiction, no following necessary! 

Nextdoor is organized around neighborhoods. When people sign up for Nextdoor, they provide their address, which is part of a neighborhood that Nextdoor assigns. Then, when people post information and communicate with each other, they’re doing it with their neighbors, rather than with someone who could be hundreds of miles away.  Sometimes communication goes beyond the neighborhood, but never further than the city or county in which they live. And because they’re communicating with neighbors, they’re posting about local topics, like finding a contractor or zoning issues, etc. 

And Nextdoor has reach.  One in three households are signed up with Nextdoor, which translates to more than 43 million homes and more than 100 million people. So it’s a great way to reach more of the public.  In fact, Nextdoor is so effective that some cities and counties have made it a key part of their communication strategy. 

As you may know, Hyper-Reach was the first emergency notification company to build any integration at all with Nextdoor. But because there was no API (application programming interface), the integration was limited. Now we are delighted to tell you that Hyper-Reach is the first and only mass notification system with a full Nextdoor integration. 

With Hyper-Reach, you’ll be able to include Nextdoor in all* of your mass notification campaigns with just a click of the button.  Which means that your alerts will go to more people and reach those people in more ways than you ever have before.  

There’s more that you need to know, and we’ll be glad to help you. Just click here for a demo, or, if you’re an existing customer, send an email to info@hyper-reach.com

Are Landline Phones Relevant Anymore?

We’ve been tracking the demise of the landline phone in the US for some time now.  The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics conducts regular surveys and semi-annual estimates of the number of so-called “wireless only” households.  While there’s a significant lag in the data, the trend is obvious.

As of the end of 2022, the NCHS estimates that 73.2% of adults in the US live in homes without a landline.  While there’s a tiny fraction of people with no phone at all, the vast majority of these folks are “wireless only”.

And the trend line is obvious. Over the last 2 years, the percentage of people who are wireless only has grown by more than 6 points, or about 3 points per year. At that rate, we’re less than 10 years from the point that the percentage of people with a landline will be negligible. 

We don’t think that the rate of decline will continue to the point where no one has a landline, but there’s no question that landlines will be less and less relevant as time goes on. We’re already at the point where some demographic groups are almost 90% wireless-only. 

And there’s a feedback loop that has, and will continue to essentially eliminate landline service as an option for many people.  Because building and maintaining landline service is increasingly not profitable for telephone companies, that service is becoming unavailable, especially in rural areas and even in some new developments. 

But there are still reasons for public safety and emergency managers to include landlines in their emergency notification systems.  Less than half of people over the age of 65 live in wireless-only households, for example, and there are still people with only a landline phone. And where service is available, landlines are often much more reliable in rural areas.  

The shift to wireless has been a major theme in Hyper-Reach’s planning over the last few years, which is why we’ve put such an emphasis on registration methods and expanding the ways we help you reach the public. Which is why you should read this issue’s article on Nextdoor, the latest addition to the social media integrations available with Hyper-Reach.

Learning from Business Continuity: Insights for Emergency Managers

Hyper-Reach serves both public safety agencies and businesses that use mass notification. While many of the operations are similar, there are important differences in how public safety/emergency managers use mass alerts compared with private businesses. 

The most obvious answer is about the audience.  Business users are usually communicating with their employees, not the general public.  Public safety users also message employees – both within their agencies and across their county or municipal governments, but there’s a much greater focus on reaching the public, which is harder to do, because of the lack of contact information and other factors. 

That led us to thinking more broadly about how emergency management and business continuity compare as professional disciplines and whether either group can learn from the other. There’s a lot of overlap, but there are also important differences in emphasis that might be useful to think about. 

1. Risk Assessment and Planning

One of the fundamental aspects of business continuity is risk assessment and planning. Before implementing any continuity plan, businesses analyze potential threats, their likelihood, and impact. The objective here is to prioritize, so that resources are focused on the biggest threats. 

Many emergency managers also do risk assessments, especially regarding natural disasters, with the likely addition of pandemics because of COVID-19. But other kinds of disasters, such as those related to technological failures are much less common. And we see less of a focus on prioritization among emergency managers than we see in the business continuity field.  A more comprehensive view of issues and more effort toward ranking risks could enable emergency managers to allocate resources more effectively and prioritize preparedness efforts.

2. Continuity of Operations

Business continuity plans focus on maintaining essential functions during a disruption, including communication, financial, operations and so forth. They want to keep the business going and ultimately restore operations to normal.  

Emergency managers could benefit from ensuring their scope is broad enough to encompass all the elements required to both keep people safe and help get life back to normal. Ensuring the continuity of critical services and infrastructure, such as healthcare, transportation, and communication systems, is vital during emergencies. By identifying key functions and developing strategies to sustain them, emergency managers can minimize the impact of disasters on communities.

3. Communication and Coordination

Effective communication and coordination are essential in both business continuity and emergency management. Business continuity is typically focused on communicating with smaller groups, such as key managers or specific teams. There is a lot of emphasis on knowing who to contact and how to reach them, including failover methods when normal lines of communication are disrupted. Importantly, the business continuity function works on ensuring communication among key constituencies – so they can talk to each other – in addition to communicating with them. 

Emergency managers also focus on coordinating and collaborating with other agencies and organizations and have the additional responsibility of planning for communication with the general public. Our general impression is that EMs tend to see themselves as the hub for these communication efforts and we see less of a concern among emergency managers in making sure that key agencies and departments can communicate with each other. 

By contrast, emergency managers generally have a broader view of what constituencies should be included in a communications plan.  Business continuity managers can take a lesson from EMs and consider what groups outside of the organization can help it recover and restore business operations. 

4. Incident Command Structure

Emergency management relies on a clear incident command structure to ensure efficient coordination and decision-making during emergencies. Business continuity managers tend to assume the existing business management structure, and might consider defining disruption-specific roles and responsibilities within their organizations. Having a well-defined command structure enables swift decision-making and execution of response and recovery plans.

5. Business Impact Analysis

Business continuity practitioners perform business impact analyses to assess the consequences of potential disruptions. This analysis helps in determining which functions are most critical and where resources should be allocated. Emergency managers can adapt this approach by conducting community impact analyses. Identifying vulnerable populations, essential facilities, and critical infrastructure can guide preparedness efforts and resource allocation during emergencies.  

6. Regular Plan Review and Updates

Business continuity plans are not static documents; they are regularly reviewed and updated to reflect changing circumstances and risks. In contrast, we’ve seen a lot of emergency management plans that are two or more years old.  Revisiting and refining emergency plans and procedures regularly is challenging, but valuable, and ensures that plans remain relevant and effective in the face of evolving threats and vulnerabilities.

Conclusion

Emergency managers and business continuity professionals can gain valuable insights from each other. While there are huge areas of overlap, there are lessons to be had in considering how each group approaches risk assessment, continuity planning, communication strategies, training, and ongoing plan review.