Check Out Our Reviews on Capterra!

There are a number of websites that collect customer surveys for software providers, including Capterra, G2, TrustRadius, and others.  

These sites are a great resource for you and your peers when selecting a vendor for an emergency mass notification system. The sites we’ve looked at all provide mechanisms to ensure that the reviews are from verified users of the system and they include structured forms to try to get a reasonably thorough review of the system in question. Although they are paid for by the vendors being reviewed, there’s no opportunity for the vendor to directly interfere with the review process or to submit their own reviews. 

For Hyper-Reach, we decided to start with Capterra.com, which is run by Gartner, a global market research firm. We asked all of our customers to submit a review and offered them a $50 gift card or contribution to the charity of their choice as a thank you. Capterra also offers another thank you worth $20 (also a gift card or charitable contribution.) Both gifts are offered regardless of whether the review is positive or negative.  

So far, we’ve been gratified by the response. Our rating – 4.9 out of 5 – is one of the highest among emergency notification providers and includes many very positive comments. You can see for yourself at https://www.capterra.com/emergency-notification-software/.  You’ll also find reviews for other vendors as well, although you might need to scroll down the list a bit. All the major providers are there: Everbridge (4.3), OnSolve (no reviews), Rave (4.7) and others.

While the reviews we’ve received have been wonderful, we’re trying to get more. So we’re reminding our customers of this opportunity again and again. 

We’re planning to collect reviews for other review sites as well. So hopefully you’ll be seeing us – with similar 5-star reviews – on G2 and similar sites. But it’s a time-consuming process for us and for our customers, so for now, Capterra will do. 

And if you don’t have time to go to the Capterra site, here’s a sample of actual quotes from customers:

Hyper-Reach offered everything we needed at a better price and unlimited messaging.

Great people, wonderful product to work with!

Hyper-Reach software is very easy to implement and use.

Compared to others this is simple to use, can be done from anywhere… 

Customer service is top notch – I’ve never had a question or request not addressed almost immediately. 

One of the best features of this software is it’s user friendly. 

I have not found anything so far that I do not like about this system. 

Hyper-Reach is a great solution for us because it is simple enough for us to use daily, but is capable of expanding as needed during our peak times through the use of ipaws and apps.

We have used Hyper-Reach for almost 10 years and have no intentions of changing. It works, we can afford it and the citizens really like it.

I don’t have any issues with the Hyper-Reach system. It has been great…

Hyper-Reach works every time you need it.

Absolutely wonderful. I highly recommend them to anyone in need of this type of system.

Free Marketing Materials for Your Citizen Signup Campaigns

We’ve been hard at work helping our customers get their residents enrolled in their Hyper-Reach emergency notification system. And these materials are available for your use – even if you’re not a Hyper-Reach customer.

Above is a sample of what we’ve put together in just the last two months: 

All of these materials – and many more – can be easily adapted to your community and agency.  We’ve already turned some of these documents into templates that let you quickly change the logos, community name, agency name and other elements as you require. And we’re working to make all of our materials into easily customizable templates for any agency to use. 

If you’re not using Hyper-Reach today, you might need to make some additional changes. Because Hyper-Reach offers more ways for residents to sign up than other alert providers, some of the content might not apply to you.  For example:

  • Our phone-based sign up process – perfect for older citizens and folks without Internet access – is not offered by most other alert service providers.  
  • Our one-click process that lets residents sign up on their browser is offered by some, but not all mass notification companies. 
  • And only Hyper-Reach offers signing up through Alexa.  So you’ll need to delete text like “just say ‘Alexa, enable Hyper-Reach.’”

But you almost certainly have a web-sign up form. Although we think ours is better, these materials should work fine for your web-based form. Here are some suggestions to make them work even better:

  • Use a QR code or URL shortener like bit.ly to make it easy for residents to find your sign up page.
  • Insist that your vendor provide a web signup form designed to be easy to fill out on a smartphone or tablet. We’ve been careful about this because more than 70% of internet access is on mobile devices. 
  • Ask your vendor to minimize the number of steps that folks have to go through to register. Some of our competitors require account creation first, then filling out a form, then account confirmation, plus multiple invasive questions, etc. So many people don’t actually complete the process. 
  • Try to avoid passwords to set up an account.  Hyper-Reach lets you use your social media account instead of creating a separate username and password. (This also makes it easier to remember how to access your account when you need to make changes.) 

Or you could just switch to Hyper-Reach to take advantage of all the great features we’ve built in to make it easy for residents to sign up!

It’s important to let folks know about your alert service and to give them a reason to sign up.  Which is why we’ve worked with our customers to create ads, flyers, brochures, press releases, signage, billing inserts, social media posts and more to get the word out. 

We’ve also developed a complete marketing plan to help guide the use of all of these materials. 

Although we give customers more attention and service, we’re interested in the safety of all Americans, so we’re glad to offer these materials, even to non-customers.  All you have to do is ask. 

So if your agency wants help in publicizing the alert system, just let us know. You can send us a message at hr_info@hyper-reach.com or fill out the form here

The Uses and Abuses of Mass Notification Systems

We recently saw an alert message from a sheriff announcing that he wasn’t running for re-election.  That’s an unusual use of a community mass notification system, but it isn’t unprecedented.  In October, a county supervisor in upstate NY used the system there to communicate her “good works”.  And we’ve seen other interesting uses for emergency alert systems over the years.

That got us thinking about what kinds of public messages communities send with these kinds of systems. So we reviewed every message we’ve seen over the past two years, focusing on the messages sent to the general public. 

Our database includes the tens of thousands of messages we sent for our customers, as well as thousands of messages sent through all our major competitors. Our sample includes major cities (NY, LA, etc.), rural areas, and everything in between and covers all regions of the US.  

We’ve tried to summarize all of these messages below. Although this summary focuses on warnings, there are often follow up messages that include protective resources (e.g. shelters, evacuation routes) “all-clear” notices, information on recovery or repairs, and related information.  For the sake of brevity, we’ve left out most of that detail. 

While most of the messages we saw follow best practices, it’s worth remembering that every warning message should follow this pattern:

      1. What the hazard is.
      2. The timing and location of the danger (when and where).
      3. What action the reader should take. 

We think these guidelines are useful even when the action is no action. Many messages, for example, were meant to alert residents of unusual situations – e.g. smoke, flyovers, a bomb test – to avoid calls to the 911 center. Most of these messages did not include a statement like “there is no need to call 911,” but our reading of the research suggests that clarity is always better than ambiguity.  So we think you should consider adding that content to your message templates. 

And it’s very important to include specific location information. In too many cases, we saw messages that had little or no location data. Since most messages are text and do not include a map component, it’s difficult for a reader to understand a hazard if they don’t know where it is. That’s especially true for social media messages which can be read by people who may be outside a polygon on a map. 

We also think you should review what your message will look like to the recipient. In the examples below, you’ll see messages that are truncated so that key details are only available by clicking on the link. That’s a bad practice since many residents won’t click on a link without a compelling reason.

It’s not our job to tell you how to use your alert system. But we can at least show you how others are using their systems so you can consider whether those uses are valuable for your residents.

One interesting use of alert systems to consider is when you’re changing alert providers. Several of our newer customers used their old alert system to tell residents they were switching to Hyper-Reach and to send them the link to our signup page and the number we use for telephone signups. We think this is a great way to help make sure the transition to Hyper-Reach goes smoothly and reaches the maximum number of people in your community. 

Alert Messages Types by Category:

Weather – Both Extreme and Potentially Threatening

  • How to prepare for weather, prevent damage (e.g. flooding)
  • Impact of weather: office closures, etc.
  • Resources to deal with weather: e.g. shelter availability, cooling or warming centers
  • Damage reporting requests: e.g. asking for citizen reports of weather damage
  • Added services in response to events, e.g. brush pickup

Other Environmental Hazards

  • Air quality advisories
  • Wildfire
  • Floods
  • Mud/rock slides
  • Explosion hazard
  • Chemical spills

Utility Issues

  • Boil Water, water main breaks, etc.
  • Emergency water availability
  • Gas service issues, including leaks, hazardous situations
  • Electric power issues, e.g. interruptions, resumption of power
  • Energy conservation requests
  • Water conservation requests

Disease and Health-Related Issues

  • Vaccination promotion, advice, reminders
  • Pandemic advice for safety, masking, etc.
  • Pandemic-related reopening notices
  • Other disease-related notices
  • Rabies vaccination clinic availability

Awareness/Avoiding Panic/Pre-empting 911 Calls

  • Smoke, odor awareness
  • Fireworks awareness
  • Bomb, explosion awareness
  • Flyover of military, other aircraft
  • Testing of siren awareness
  • IPAWS test message awareness

Traffic-Related

  • Travel advisory: closed roads, traffic signal problems, other issues
  • Event awareness: e.g. marathons, parades, protests, ect.
  • Parking restrictions
  • Traffic advisory: e.g. speed limit changes, new traffic patterns

Crime/Law Enforcement/Soliciting Assistance

  • Police activity awareness
  • Criminal at large: shelter in place, BOLO
  • Criminal activity, e.g. homicide in area
  • School lock down
  • Active shooter
  • Solicitation for witnesses, crime tips
  • Missing persons, Amber, Silver alerts

Government Service Advisories

  • Government service changes: e.g. garbage, recycling pickup, Christmas tree pickup
  • Office and school closures, opening delays, change in hours
  • 911 usage advice, e.g. things not to call about
  • 911 outage, service issues
  • Emergency sirens not working
  • Police phone out of order, service resumed
  • Park closures due to construction
  • Spay and neuter services

Citizen Participation Invitations and Opportunities

  • Asking for blood donations
  • Soliciting participation in community events, e.g. light contest, kite festival
  • Government agency meetings, e.g. public hearings, citizen workshops, candidate forums
  • Gun buyback program
  • Memorial events, e.g. 9/11, officer funeral service
  • Voting locations and hours

Safety Advisories

  • Burn ban notice, red flag notice
  • Power line down, building collapse, sink hole
  • Rules reminders, e.g. “don’t mix grass clippings with brush to be picked up”
  • Home safety reminders: e.g. dispose of old medicines
  • Swimming advisory: e.g. rip currents
  • Life safety reminders: “children should wear helmets on bikes”, “lock your car”

Other Messages

  • Switching alert services
  • Important message
  • New laws and their impact
  • Tax and utility billing notices
  • Political announcements

Specific Message Examples (Communities Names Selectively Redacted)

  • Signup for HyperReach  by Calling or Texting “Alert” to (740) 669-7798 or the web address: http://hyper-reach.com/ohvintonsignup.html
  • Starting or reopening your small business? Cut red tape in half with NYC Business Quick Start. Call 888-727-4962 or visit nyc.gov/business
  • Our city has an alarming shortage of donated blood. Give blood and help your city. Visit nybc.org or call 1-800-933-2566.
  • This is the Charlotte Mecklenburg police department  please stand by f… https://evb.gg/n#1iuuuue1acb/09aHG0UH or
  • A Friendly Reminder Regarding Grass Clippings: Please do not mix grass clippings with brush piles. The Shrewsbury DPW will not pick u https://rgrp.app/3fmn0qY
  • It’s important to keep our homes safe by cleaning our medicine cabinets and any areas we keep our medicine. Tomorrow, April 24th betwee https://rgrp.app/3xhN25F
  • We need your help in keeping our children safe. Parents, please stress to your children that when they are ridi https://rgrp.app/352ZmJz
  • Sewer Repair Work Planned for next week.  3/7/22 through 3/11/22. nixle.us/DG4NB Reply with a friend’s # to forward
  • Message from Department of Public Works nixle.us/DEHGZ Reply with a friend’s # to forward
  • Residents are encouraged to participate in The City of Manchester’s Holiday Lights Contest! nixle.us/D9ZSZ Reply with a friend’s # to forward
  • ONLY call 9-1-1 for emergencies, not for power outages nixle.us/D8L5R Reply with a friend’s # to forward
  • GUN BUY BACK CASH FOR GUNS EVENT nixle.us/D6X5H Reply with a friend’s # to forward
  • County Sheriff Tom Jones announces he won’t seek re-election nixle.us/DGCTX Reply with a friend’s # to forward

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. 

Request a Demo

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.

Going Beyond Weather Alerts

We came across this fascinating article in the NYTimes, recently, about how the Centers for Disease Control have created a Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics, which would work similarly to the National Weather Service, providing risk information about infectious disease. 

The CFA, as it’s being called, will be headed by folks from Johns Hopkins, the Harvard School of Public Health and others and will start with about $200 million in public funding. That’s a far cry from the billions that have been invested in weather forecasting, but it’s a start. And it’s worth remembering that weather forecasting was once a dark art that seemed more of a miss than a hit: 

Weather forecasting was once primitive and unreliable. But after decades of sustained investment…the science improved. Weather models became more mathematically rigorous; weather forecasts more accurate… A century ago, natural disasters were…mysterious, unpredictable… Today, hardly anyone gets dressed without checking their favorite weather app.

Getting good results won’t be easy, but there are so many opportunities for improvement, it’s realistic to expect better forecasts in just a few years. Here are some of the ways things will get better:

  1. Better data. Until recently, there were no standardized reporting formats for hospitals to send data to the CDC or other government agencies. And even today, the guidance that’s provided by the Federal Government makes it clear that we’ve got a long way to go before we get to standardized, automated data collection that health care providers and public health departments can transmit easily and agencies process efficiently. 
  2. Consistent effort. Up until now, academic and other research in disease prevention have been largely driven by subject-specific and time-limited grants. So when Covid (and earlier disease outbreaks, such as H1N1) hit, many researchers in the field dropped what they were doing and pitched in on the crisis of the day. But when that crisis passed, they went back to their day jobs and much of what they developed was lost. 
  3. Centralized coordination. Just as in 1970, when the National Weather Service Atmospheric Administration gathered different weather-forecasting groups together and enabled forecasters and decision makers to work together, the CFA will bring together academic and government efforts to improve forecasts, public policy implications and the way those are communicated.  It will also spread the wealth of information to jurisdictions and decision makers who were on their own during the early days of the Covid crisis: 

Here’s how Caitlin Rivers and Dylan George describe it: 

The National Weather Center at the University of Oklahoma has a unique structure that enables academics to work closely with federal employees and develop a mutual understanding of respective challenges and capabilities. In the same manner, the [CFA] would work with the CDC, nonprofit organizations such as the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, public health departments in all 50 states, and the National Governors Association to improve outbreak science and analytics, decision-making during outbreaks, and the data and technologies needed to support these efforts.

So how will this affect mass notification, including Hyper-Reach and its customers?

While it will take a few years, it’s not a stretch to imagine emergency alert systems sending messages to key constituencies (government employees, health care workers, employers, etc.), vulnerable populations and even the public at large about risky situations and preventative measures. These could be modeled on air quality or heat index alerts, for example.  As Rivers and George put it: 

Just as people rely on weather reports to know when to bring an umbrella, CEFA forecasts could make it easier to decide whether to telework during flu season or whether to wear a face covering. People want to know how to keep themselves and their families safe, and providing information to help them do so would be an enormous advance for public health.

While this may seem like science fiction, we’re old enough to remember when the day’s weather forecast seemed like a 50/50 proposition and packing a picnic lunch often resulted in disappointment and frustration when the rain came.  So we;re looking forward to helping disseminate the new and better information we expect to come from this effort. 

If even a fraction of the new center’s visions are realized, when the next pandemic strikes, scientists and decision makers will have well-established connections and clear mechanisms for collaboration. They will also have more robust data sets and a trove of pandemic-forecasting research to draw from. And they may, at last, be equipped to talk to one another — and to the public — about what they’re doing and why it matters.

Leverage the New Year to Promote Emergency Alert Signups

The New Year is just weeks away and that means New Year’s resolutions. Statistics show that about 3/4 of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, a number that gets as high as 90+% for younger age groups.

While you can’t help your citizens pay off their debts or lose weight, you can offer them one resolution that’s easy to keep and will make them safer. Suggest that they create an emergency preparedness plan!

Of course one part of that emergency preparedness plan should include signing up for emergency alerts. So offer them whatever methods you’ve got available to do that. And if you’re lucky enough to use Hyper-Reach for your mass notification service, you can offer them more ways to sign up than any other service.

Here’s a press release you can use as a template for your own to send to local media. Let us know if you need any help in making this work for you and your community.

Crazy Weather and Emergency Preparedness

While Hawaii’s recent blizzard is not among the really strange weather that has been popping up in recent years (and expected to continue), it’s a great example of how surprising weather patterns are catching communities off-guard. And to our minds, it raises questions about what local emergency managers should be doing about this trend. 

There’s no doubt that crazy weather is creating emergency conditions in odd places around the US. Whether it’s 95+ degree days in Caribou, ME (while the rest of the country was cooler), extreme heat in the Pacific Northwest, sub-zero temperatures in Texas, or tornadoes in Washington State, the weather has dealt us some pretty severe blows recently. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2021 has had the deadliest weather for the 50 US states since 2011. And that was before this weekend’s tornado disasters in Kentucky and other states.

Although it’s impossible to attribute climate change to any one event, hundreds of studies confirm that extreme weather is made more likely by the increasing temperature of the earth. And while most of the impacts result in heat waves, drought and knock-on effects – such as wildfires – the research also attributes extreme cold and rain events to global warming.

Our focus in this article is on weather that is both extreme and generally unlikely in your specific part of the country. As emergency managers and public safety officials, the increasing occurrence of extreme weather is not new to you. But have you considered preparing your citizens for extreme weather that seems unlikely in your area?

We did a quick survey of 50 county EMA websites to see which kinds of events emergency management agencies offered information on. Not surprisingly, there was a distinct tendency to talk about events that were more likely in their specific areas (hurricanes in the southeast, tornadoes in the southwest and snowstorms in the northeast and midwest, for example.)  While this makes perfect sense, we want you to consider how providing information on crazy weather could serve your community. 

First, recognize that extreme and unusual weather can happen anywhere. And because most people are not prepared, it can be especially deadly. For example, consider the Pacific Northwest, where temperatures of up to 116 degrees killed hundreds of people this summer. While that kind of heat is easily dealt with in Arizona, many people in the Pacific Northwest don’t have air conditioning and are unprepared for the heat. 

It may seem odd to warn your citizens of heat waves in the north, deep freezes in the south and tornadoes in New England, but every disaster is statistically unlikely for most communities, and statistically likely to happen somewhere.  So offering information on preparation makes sense. 

Second, realize that just helping people think about the possibility of unusual extreme weather can help them prepare.  As FEMA puts it: “…people actually respond in a generally adaptive manner when disasters strike. Adaptive response is often delayed because normalcy bias delays people’s realization that an improbable event is, in fact, occurring to them.”

In fact, mental preparation is the beginning of actual preparation.  Referring to last winter’s deep freeze in Texas, Samantha Montano, professor of emergency management at Massachusetts Maritime Academy, said it this way:

When you tell people in Houston that there’s a hurricane coming, people know what that means. …In this situation, from what I’m seeing so far, I think there was a lack of depth of knowledge about, “What does that mean that it’s going to be cold? What do I need to do?” 

Third, think about creating some message templates for unusual weather and related events for your area. You could ask your peers in other regions of the country, for example, to share what they use for events that are much more common where they live. And offer them the kinds of messaging you use for the events that you’re most familiar with. Hyper-Reach and some of our competitors provide ways you can store those templates to easily create messages when those rare events do come to your area. 

Finally, consider the PR value of highlighting rare events. As marketers, we know the attention-getting value of the unusual. For example, we recently noticed a billboard here in Virginia for the Great Shakeout, and it got our attention precisely because earthquakes are pretty rare here and generally not very big. 

Imagine if you offered a “blizzard preparation kit” in Louisiana or a fact sheet on heat waves in Alaska. A press release on these – or similar – topics are just the thing for a local media outlet with a slow news day. And even if it just gets your agency a little more attention, that’s not a bad thing. 

Since emergency preparedness kits are not typically disaster-specific, there’s no harm – and possibly much to gain – from using these events to get your citizens motivated to be prepared.  

Of course, you can also use this tactic to promote signing up for emergency alerts. And that’s a good thing, too. 

Historically, when emergency managers are doing a risk assessment, they’re looking backwards: Does your community have a flood risk, or a tornado risk? That doesn’t work with climate change. Just because a certain hazard hasn’t been a problem for a community historically, doesn’t mean that hazard is not going to be a huge problem in the next few years—or even now.  – Susan Montano, professor, emergency management, Massachusetts Maritime Academy.

Help your citizens find your emergency notification service with SEO

We talk a lot about helping you get your residents signed up for emergency alerts. And we do a lot to help you. For example, Hyper-Reach has the most ways for citizens to register for alerts.  And we make it easier for them to sign up than our competitors. We’ve also developed a plan template that you can use to promote your system. (It’s free; just ask us for a copy. We’ll even help you implement the plan.) And there are more ways you can take advantage of these resources.

To make the most of your mass notification system you need to make it easy for citizens to find you. And that means making yourself visible on the Internet, which is the way most people get their news and other information. And a few simple steps can get more visibility, both for the alert service and for your agency. 

What we’re talking about here is what’s called Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. That’s the process that companies and other organizations use to make it easy for someone to find them using Google, Bing or other search engines. It’s something that your agency can do, too.  And we’ll help, with tips, tricks and content you can use to promote your system. 

Here’s a start. On the web page that links to your signup form, do you use the phrase “emergency alerts” or “emergency notification” when describing your system? If you’re just using one, we suggest you use both. The reason is that some people may be searching for the first phrase while others may use the second one. You can also use phrases like “emergency messages”, “weather alerts”, “evacuation notices”, etc. on that same web page. And be sure to use the name of your county or city, because most people will need to include their area if they are going to find your sign up page. 

You can even use the names of either the cities in your county or the county you belong to, depending on whether you’re a county-level agency or a municipal one. 

In SEO-speak, these phrases are called “keywords”. SEO professionals try to make sure their “content” (a fancy word for web pages, blog posts, social media posts, etc.) are full of relevant keywords they think people are searching for. 

The trick here is to think like someone who might be looking for emergency alerts in your area.  What would you search for if you were an average citizen trying to find out how to sign up for emergency alerts?

We’ll offer more tips in coming months, and other resources too. So stay tuned.