Guide to IPAWS

Guide to IPAWS

When disaster strikes, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is ready to help. FEMA has developed IPAWS (aka Integrated Public Alert & Warning System) – the powerful way for emergency managers and public officials to alert the public quickly when emergencies arise within their jurisdictions. IPAWS helps local, state, tribal and federal agencies quickly communicate lifesaving information to the public.

IPAWS is especially valuable in the 21st century, when connected devices are all around us. Let’s take a closer look at IPAWS and how it works.

What Is IPAWS Emergency Alert?

IPAWS is a system provided by FEMA for agencies to use to inform the public of emergencies, such as dangerous weather and AMBER Alerts. These notifications go out through various platforms, including cellphones, radio, TV and internet service. Strict system maintenance includes regular weekly tests to ensure operation and reliability.

A critical component of IPAWS is ensuring access to the entire public. The system has technologies to reach people in rural locations, people who lack access to newer electronics, non-English speakers and those with disabilities. For instance, IPAWS can deliver messages through sirens, text-to-Braille translators and sign language interpretation.

Language options can vary based on the delivery media, but they often will include English and Spanish alerts and may include others depending on the primary language spoken by the area’s population. The Department of Homeland Security also uses a collection of international symbols.

The communication channels that can broadcast IPAWS messages include:

  • Radio, TV and landline phones.
  • NOAA Radio, RSS.
  • Mobile devices: Although limited to only the most urgent alerts, Wireless Emergency Alerts are an excellent resource for sending information. Mobile phones can be an ideal way to reach some disabled populations, too, as many smartphones have built-in disability access features. For instance, a visually impaired person might have text-to-speech enabled and would receive a spoken alert through their mobile phone without needing a separate communication platform.
  • Browser push notifications.
  • Unique systems and assistive and emerging technologies: There are a wide range of other technologies compatible with IPAWS protocols, including digital road signs, wall beacons, sirens, remote video interpretation and others that can meet the needs of people with disabilities, limited technology access and non-English speakers.

Adding IPAWS to your emergency communication toolkit can provide real value. For instance, through WEA, IPAWS can send messages to almost all mobile phones, without any need for registration and provide access to many other message delivery mechanisms. In addition, FEMA is constantly updating IPAWS. The latest updates render IPAWS WEA an even more sophisticated communication tool:

  • IPAWS WEA messages now contain up to 360 characters.
  • You can include hyper-links. This means you can send a bulletin with lots of information to the public.
  • IPAWS WEA now supports alerts in Spanish.
  • The geographic accuracy of WEA alerts has also greatly improved.

What Does IPAWS Do?

IPAWS delivers public alerts during various incidents, including anything officials deem a threat to public safety.

  • Weather: Tornadoes, flash flooding, heat and snowstorms
  • Natural disasters: Earthquakes, volcano eruptions and wildfires
  • Infrastructure: Dam breaks, road closures, gridlock, power outages, disaster resources and water and relief supply distribution
  • Law enforcement: AMBER Alerts and active shooters
  • Public health: Illness outbreak, water contamination and chemical spills
  • Other issues: Presidential alerts and shelter-in-place commands

An IPAWS alert could mean many different things and might instruct people to take shelter, evacuate an area, watch for suspects, use bottled water or take other precautions required for safety.

How Does IPAWS Work?

IPAWS relies on the Common Alerting Protocol, which provides technical specifications for compatibility, consistency and access while allowing the alerting authority to add their messages appropriate to the situation. Creating a message with CAP is as easy as using a CAP-compliant piece of software.

These messages then go to the IPAWS Open Platform for Emergency Networks (IPAWS OPEN). This aggregator validates technical requirements and permissions before pushing the message through to the appropriate pathways.

After going through IPAWS OPEN, the message gets distributed to the many dissemination channels mentioned earlier, like the EAS, WEA, NOAA and internet services.

From a technical standpoint, CAP helps IPAWS support multiple media formats while meeting consistent tech demands for the broadest implementation and functionality. It can significantly improve the likelihood that a person will receive the alert.

CAP allows for:

  • Rich multimedia, including streaming video, audio, maps and photos.
  • Geographical targeting to specific areas.
  • Meeting the needs of people with visual or auditory impairments and non-English speakers.

Other IPAWS FAQs

  • How long has IPAWS been around? FEMA established the IPAWS program in 2006 by Presidential Executive Order 13407. Today there are more than 1,500 federal, state, local, tribal and territorial alerting authorities that use IPAWS to send critical public alerts and warnings in their jurisdictions.
  • Who can get IPAWS alerts? By design, IPAWS reaches as many people as possible within a specific geographic area. Unless you’re entirely off the grid and far from civilization, there’s a good chance you’ll receive an alert, whether through a cellphone, siren, radio, nearby television or the internet.
  • How do you set up IPAWS alerts? If your work involves public safety, consider implementing an emergency alert system that integrates with IPAWS. It can help you reach almost everyone you need to with timely information and warnings. Setup is straightforward, and you can learn more about implementing our system, Hyper-Reach, by speaking to a team member.

Partner With the Right Emergency Alert Technology

Hyper-Reach is seamlessly integrated with FEMA’s IPAWS technology, allowing authorized clients to use IPAWS WEA messages to fill in the gaps so they can reach just about all the residents and visitors in an affected area, even if they haven’t registered for emergency alerts or are just passing through the affected community. And Hyper-Reach enables messages through all the IPAWS channels, including EAS and COG-to-COG.

Now we’ve made it even better by adding the ability to send IPAWS messages from the app. This means you can send IPAWS messages right from a mobile device. It’s so capable and easy to use that some customers prefer to use it, even when they’re in the office. And because our IPAWS software is completely up to date with the latest FEMA requirements, you can send longer WEA messages, messages in Spanish, include hyper-links in your WEA messages and more. Leverage IPAWS’ power today. Request our demo or contact us to learn more!

Customers love Hyper-Reach

We’ve just completed our latest customer satisfaction survey and are gratified to see the results. 

Customers seem to LOVE Hyper-Reach. 94% of respondents gave us their highest rating. That’s 3.9 on a 4 point scale!

And their reasons for satisfaction were just as gratifying: ease of use, excellent customer support, powerful features and value.  Comments included quotes like these: “It is so much easier (than our previous system.)”, “Customer support is phenomenal and very responsive”, “all features are very effective”,  “you seem to have all the features we need” and “pricing [is] excellent”.

Many customers have switched from our competitors, with more than 40% of those answering the survey using a different company (e.g. Everbridge, CodeRed aka “Onsolve”, Nixle or WENS) in the past. Almost 90% of those who switched indicated that they were very happy with the switch to Hyper-Reach.

Ease of use is a big factor among our customers.  More than half described the system as “very easy” to use, with the rest describing its ease of use as “moderate.”  Everyone who made a comparison described Hyper-Reach as easier to use than other systems they’ve used or seen. Our new smartphone app seems to be especially easy.  As one customer said, “All of my supervisors have it on their phone…and they all said ‘that’s pretty easy!’”

And while some customers noted that Hyper-Reach is less expensive than the competition, no one mentioned missing competitor features they cared about. If anything, some customers felt that they got more power from Hyper-Reach. For example: “We wanted [our previous supplier] to work with us on tornado warnings being sent to our entire county instead of just the polygon and they would not help us with doing that. Once we talked to Hyper-Reach… we were sold.”  Or, as another customer put it: “Hyper-Reach is powerful!!!!!”

We also asked customers about their recent use of the system and if Hyper-Reach helped them accomplish their goals. Over 80% reported a recent use of the system and all of those were happy with the system’s performance. 75% described the system’s performance as “excellent”, with the rest describing it as “good”.  Everyone who responded to the question agreed that the system helped them achieve their goals. As one customer told us “each time we have had to use it, our goal is always accomplished.”

Finally, we asked customers about customer service and support. Again, more than 94% said they were very satisfied with our customer service staff and some compared us very favorably with their other vendors, such as their phone or ACD company. 

Of course, no system is perfect, and we did get some suggestions for new features and changes to improve the system. And we’re listening! Many of these suggestions will soon be scheduled for later releases. Because we want our customers to continue to say things like this customer did: “they just continue to improve and make their already great product, greater!”

If you responded to our survey, we thank you, whether you gave us high marks or not.  And if you didn’t get a chance to answer our survey, we’d love to hear from you. You can find it here: https://forms.gle/ZuH39AEPCkf9rQ2i7.

And thanks again for comments like these: 

“We have to [compare multiple vendors] every year. [Reasons we chose Hyper-Reach:] Value and Cost, Capability of the System, and Customer Service.”

“A GREAT NOTIFICATION SYSTEM WITH GOOD SUPPORT”

“If you aren’t using Hyper-Reach, you’re paying too much.“

Ensuring safety during hurricane season

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is saying there’s a 60% probability of another above-normal Atlantic hurricane season, and many other forecasters making similar estimates. With 6 named storms so far (twice the long-term average for this time of year), a likely range of 13 to 20 named storms, of which 6 to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), and 3 to 5 major hurricanes (winds of 111 mph or higher) is expected.  Although one organization (Colorado State University) has reduced its estimate a bit, higher-than average storm counts are still predicted. The Atlantic hurricane season extends from June 1 through November 30. 

Preparation and anticipation of what to expect in a hurricane event is one of the smartest things you can do.

Here are some preparation steps that you can take to help ensure the safety of your community:

  1. Start preparing your community before the hurricane hits. Summer is a great time for festivals, fairs and many local outdoor events. Take advantage of it and educate your community on how to get prepared for the hurricane season. You may organize a workshop or participate with a booth and provide useful safety tips on how to prepare for a hurricane, how to stay safe during the storm, and how to deal with the aftermath once the storm has passed. Engage your audience to participate in discussion and do not forget to post updates on social media and your website to reach even more people. 

It’s also a great opportunity to remind people to sign up with your current Emergency Notification System if they yet haven’t done that and highlighting that they would have a better chance of receiving alerts and updates from you if they register. 

These resources will help you to stay in the loop:

2. Create an emergency plan for your staff. Identify who is responsible for what task and what role they will play. Arrange a staff meeting and share the plan. A detailed preparation plan will help you to eliminate confusion and react faster during a storm. Do you have a tool for efficient internal communications? It’s critical to successfully coordinate the staff and share the important information fast during a hurricane. With the Emergency Notification System you can not only send messages to the public but also use it for internal communication. Hype-Reach has a dynamic list function that lets you create separate lists for different departments, skills and responsibilities to send the message to the right people in just seconds.

3. Use as many communication channels as possible. Do not rely primarily on one or two communication methods. People tend to consume content differently depending on their age, sex, income, interests etc. For instance, the older population tends to rely more on older technology, such as landline phones, while a younger audience uses social media frequently. An emergency notification system, such as Hyper-Reach, is a unified communication platform that lets you send the message out in so many ways: text message, phone call, social media post, push notification, RSS, and even more.

And Hyper-Reach has made it possible to send alerts via smart speakers such as Amazon Alexa, too. While great for lots of other people, Alexa can help those who are blind or visually impaired and who have other physical disabilities.  As a result, Alexa is already popular with the blind and physically-impaired who use it for tasks such as texting, phone calls, checking the calendar, “reading the news”, etc.  And now – with Hyper-Reach – you can send emergency alerts to these special populations. 

People who are physically impaired are especially vulnerable and might require special assistance during an evacuation. With Hyper-Reach Alexa notifications, your message has a much better chance to be delivered to them – and quickly – in case of emergency. 

Want to know more about Hyper-Reach Alexa notifications? Book our demo.

4. Use emergency message templates. They will help you to save time, avoid ambiguity and go through different possible scenarios ahead. Keep your templates simple and remember about the character limit. For instance, Twitter messages can be up to 280 characters, IPAWS WEA messages, up to 360 characters, and SMS messages should not exceed 918 characters. 

You’ll probably need these three message types at your disposal:

  • Pre-storm templates – the purpose of this type of templates is to prepare your community for the hurricane. Send them updates of the hurricane status, provide advice on shelter in place and evacuation options etc.
  • Hurricane alert templates in the wake of the storm – just before a hurricane hits, you’ll need to send out the hurricane alert with an approximate time and area affected in the description.
  • Post-storm templates communicate on the recovery process. You may need to send out a “boil your water” or “blackout” alert as a consequence of the storm or inform people when they are safe to return to their home, etc.

Feel free to use these emergency templates we’ve designed specifically for hurricane season.

Preparation is very important. As with every hurricane season regardless of forecast, knowing the essentials and preparing for the worst scenario could truly protect people’s lives and minimize damages. 

We hope you will find the information above useful. And let us know what your must-do hurricane preparation steps are in the comments below. We’ll be glad to share your best practices on our blog and social media.

Effective communication during summer-autumn holidays and events

Summer and early autumn are a popular time for vacations and various outdoor events: fairs, festivals, carnivals, cultural and sports events. And with many people vaccinated against COVID-19, we’re gradually returning to normal life. Half of the US population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the White House said last Friday. After an 18-month hiatus, concerts, festivals, sports, and other big events are slowly recovering.

Have you taken all needed precautions and are you ready to communicate with your community during these summer-autumn events effectively?

Below we have highlighted some great tips to help you keep your community safe and get maximum benefit from your notification system during the summer-autumn seasons. (If you don’t have a mass notification system in place, you might want to consider getting one:)

  1. Remind people about COVID precautions and any restrictions they need to take during events and holidays. CDC guidelines encourage event organizers to follow state and local regulations on gatherings (updates on Covid-19 restrictions in all 50 states can be found here). Meeting planners should continually monitor the outbreak and make adjustments to the event plan as needed. 

“Event planners should work with state and local health officials to implement this guidance, adjusting to meet the unique needs and circumstances of the local community,” reads the document. According to the CDC, “this guidance is meant to supplement — not replace — any state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations with which gatherings must comply.” More about risk factors to consider can be found here.

2. Warn residents about extreme heat.  Although we all love summer for its holidays, relaxation and fun, it also can be very dangerous during heat waves, especially for the elderly and children. And the prevalence of extreme heat events is also rising. One study of 13,000 cities estimates that people’s exposure to extreme heat more than doubled between 1983 and 2016. Cities across the world fight extreme heat by developing “cool corridors” and “cool roofs”, educating their people about extreme heat and how to behave during heat waves. For instance, the Indian city of Ahmedabad, after a devastating heatwave in 2010, developed an action plan with these three elements

    1. raising awareness about how people can protect themselves from extreme heat; 
    2. creating an early warning system for heatwave forecasts; 
    3. training medical staff to better recognize and treat people suffering from extreme heat.

One estimate suggests that the program has saved 1,190 lives a year, and a similar approach has been rolled out for more than a dozen other cities across India. Now that US cities are experiencing triple-digit heat waves, there are lessons for us here. Use your notification system to remind people to protect themselves from the extreme heat and raise their awareness. Here’s some useful information you can share with your folks on how they can protect themselves and the people they love: 

3. Use weather alerts to help people prepare for, change and even cancel their travel plans. Beyond heat, the summer-to-autumn months are the high season for hurricanes, floods, and wildfires in many US states. Many of your residents will welcome updates on extreme weather. And because many people are travelling during summer holidays, it’s important to get the message out to summer visitors in addition to the residents who are registered for alerts. Hyper-Reach (or another mass notification system) can help you do this in two ways. For the most extreme events that threaten life or properly, you can use IPAWS WEA alerts. Or use our event alert feature to create an easy “register-by-text” code that visitors can sign up for when they visit your area. 

4. Let people know about unexpected emergencies. Public events can present all kinds of issues: a missing child, a traffic hazard, even an active shooter. You need to be ready to get the word out to minimize the crowd panic, get people’s cooperation, and get the situation under control as soon as possible. We found some useful guidelines on preparing for, and responding to a missing person situation here.

5. Prepare for traffic issues.  During summer holidays and events many communities experience big increases in traffic.  You may need to send updates on traffic problems, road closures, etc. so folks can avoid travelling near bad situations or at peak periods. 

6. Prepare for staffing issues. Summertime can be a much slower time of year for many organizations including public safety agencies. Employees may go on vacation, meaning you might face staffing shortages during emergencies. A mass notification system can not only help you send the word out to the public quickly – and with minimal effort – but also coordinate with available staff effectively and get shifts covered fast. 

7. Remind folks about back-to-school.  August is back-to-school month. Children heading back to school means more children on the streets, and more safety precautions to be taken. It’s time to remind parents, children and drivers to be vigilant of the increased movement of school-aged children. Mass notification software gives you the capability to send unified messaging across multiple channels, helping children, teachers and the community stay safe and informed.

8. Get the message right. To make the communication process faster and smarter, use message templates, which allow you to use a “fill-in-the-blank” approach to writing mass notification messages. They will help you create high quality, consistent messages quickly and make sure that you’ve included all needed information. Feel free to use and modify these weather templates we’ve highlighted for you previously or create your own.

9. Use events to get more people registered.  Local events are a good occasion to remind people to register for emergency alerts and more. You may attend with a booth or organize a safety workshop at a fair or other local event.

How to Reduce Problem Resolution Time

When you work in an industry or government sector where you need to handle customers’ or constituencies’ non-emergencies or emergencies fast, your problem resolution time is crucial. The amount of time it takes for your representatives to solve problems plays a critical role in a customer’s satisfaction and, at times, safety. Once you know how to reduce problem resolution time, you can take steps to deliver more effective services and improve your customer’s satisfaction.

Find out more about what problem resolution time is, why it matters, how it’s measured and how you can reduce it. You might also want to know more about how you can reduce your incident response time.

What Is Problem Resolution Time?

Problem resolution time refers to the amount of time it takes for a company to resolve a customer service ticket or case after it’s opened. Problem resolution time is often measured from the moment a customer reports a problem to a company and to whenever the company solves the issue. Generally, the time is measured in business hours instead of clock hours to account for the staff’s downtime. 

Why Does Problem Resolution Time Matter?

Since shorter problem resolution times often lead to higher client or customer satisfaction rates, many organizations put a lot of effort into reducing it. When a customer contacts your company about an issue, they want to have it handled as fast as possible so they can get on with their day. Additionally, when emergencies occur at your company’s facilities or in your area, problem resolution time is even more critical, as quick incident resolutions can save property and lives.

Knowing your problem resolution time can also help you keep track of inefficiencies. For example, you may have an underperforming staff member who needs extra training or incident categories that tend to take more time to solve. By having in-depth information about problem resolution time, you can be more aware of what you need to take action on to solve inefficiencies. 

What Is ITIL Response Time?

IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) refers to a best practice framework used by organizations and individuals looking to align their business’s needs with their IT services. You’ll often see ITIL referenced when discussing incident management and response time, as unexpected interruptions caused by incidents can harm your IT department’s service quality. ITIL response time refers to the time it takes your IT services to process an incident and solve it.

How Is Problem Resolution Time Measured?

Companies often measure their problem resolution time with the mean time to resolve (MTTR). This metric calculates the average time it takes a company to solve a customer’s problem. When a company tracks its MTTR, it can set goals for reducing its average problem resolution time and spot trends, such as longer problem resolution times during parts of the year. Companies often also calculate MTTR for specific incident categories or employees to see they need to pursue extra training or specific actions.

While MTTR is an excellent metric to understand how well your company is performing overall, it can often leave out some essential details and information you’ll need. Since MTTR lumps all of your numbers into one giant pool, you can miss some critical information about particular incident classes or staff members. When you use more metrics than MTTR, you can better measure your problem resolution time and have more data to use when you attempt to reduce incident resolution time.

Check out some of the other primary metrics you can use to measure your problem resolution time:

  • Percentage resolved: With percentage resolved metrics, you can see how many problems are resolved within a specific time limit and what incidents exceed the time limit. By having this metric in your corner, you can more easily measure your goals against your resolution times. With this information, you can change your incident-management practices to help your team achieve your goals.
  • Cumulative incident time and total number of incidents: When you’re trying to get a full picture of your problem response time and the factors affecting it, you’ll want to also gather metrics on your total number of incidents and cumulative incident time for a particular period. These numbers can give you greater context about different departments and how they’re performing.
  • Individual MTTRs for different incident classes: If you can define your company’s specific incident classes, you can utilize MTTRs for them. These separate MTTRs for each class can help you determine if particular incidents tend to take more or less time. You can use these numbers to focus your efforts on reducing MTTR for incident classes that take longer.

How Do You Reduce Incident Resolution Time?

With the information you gather from various metrics, the next question you’ll probably have is, “how do I reduce resolution time?” Keeping track of your resolution time is crucial to faster resolutions, but you also need to pair them with some best practices to reduce incident response times.

1. Automate Repetitive Processes

Whenever incidents occur, your team likely has to repeat a few basic processes. For example, customer representatives often have to handle tasks like escalation, due date changes, ticket assignments and priority adjustments. These tasks are usually simple, but they can take up lots of time and be fairly tedious for employees. Having to handle these tasks manually can increase your incident response times, as representatives have to handle busywork instead of providing solutions.

When you want to reduce incident response time, one great strategy is automating many repetitive processes. You can often find automated software designed to take repetitive processes out of your team’s hands and handle them without needing any human input. By automating many processes concerning incoming tickets, you free up your staff to work on more important issues and reduce the overall time it takes for them to handle new incidents.

2. Categorize Tickets to Improve Organization

Since different ticket classes often have varying resolution times, you may want to categorize them. When you categorize your tickets, you can set more realistic expectations for particular types of incidents. For example, employees might need to handle a more crucial issue faster than a standard issue. Additionally, you might want to set longer target times for more complex problems than simple ones. By categorizing your tickets, you can set target times and evaluate how your team is performing. 

Besides arranging classes of tickets, you can also increase organization by giving custom statuses to your tickets. These statuses increase transparency across your whole team, as your staff can immediately know what’s going on with a ticket. For example, your IT team might place an “on hold” ticket status for a ticket waiting on another action. These tickets can assist your team, as they’ll know what action they need to take to handle an incident.

When you combine ticket status with improved ticket classifications, you can reduce incident resolution time. These organizational tools help your team prepare to handle a particular ticket’s needs quickly. They also help you set more realistic incident response time expectations for your team.

3. Track Performance With Reports and Analytics

One of the first steps to reducing response time is accurately tracking your team’s performance. If you don’t have the correct data, you’ll be taking shots in the dark whenever you attempt to streamline your operations. As a result, it’s crucial to use a system that can provide you with analytics and reports.

With reports and analytics, you can get a complete view of your team’s incident response times and areas needing improvement. For example, you can utilize a multi-channel report describing the nature of incoming requests and support performance to better understand your response time. With information like this in your corner, you can keep track of an individual’s performance and common problems. After receiving this information, you can craft a solution to the problem.

4. Utilize Canned Actions for Common Replies

Anyone who’s had to respond to customers’ queries and issues knows you often have to write out very similar responses. Sometimes, there’s a simple solution to a common problem or a need to request more information from the customer. Without canned actions, your staff will have to manually write out very similar emails every day. These manual responses can be very time-consuming, which effectively reduces response time.

With canned actions, you can create a few email templates designed to answer common queries or issues. When a representative receives an email fitting a templated response, they can select the email from a dropdown menu, populating the template into their reply. As a result, the representative doesn’t have to spend time writing a response. Instead, they just click the template and send the email, closing out the ticket fast.

By giving your staff access to canned actions, you can significantly reduce your incident resolution time. Because canned actions help team members automate their responses, they can resolve tickets faster. Even if they need to slightly reword a template email to meet a customer’s unique needs, it can cut down on the busywork associated with representatives having to write the more standard language used in the rest of an email.

5. Provide Self-Service Options

Another key way to decrease incident response time is to reduce the number of tickets your team has to handle on any given day. When representatives get tied up managing tons of incidents, wait times tend to increase and the representative can feel overwhelmed, leading to lost productivity. If you want to know how to reduce the number of incidents your team has to handle daily, you can start by providing self-service options to your customers.

Essentially, a self-service option gives your customers the information they need to handle issues by themselves. While customers can’t often handle complex issues independently, they’re usually able to address simple issues if you give them easy-to-follow instructions. You can find self-service options taking the form of FAQs, how-to-articles for fixing common incidents and intuitive search functions to help customers solve incidents.

Many customers enjoy self-service options, as these selections take away the need to spend time speaking with someone. Self-service options can also reduce response times as your team won’t have to deal with as many incidents. Additionally, minimizing your representatives’ incidents helps them stay more focused and stress-free when handling a customer’s ticket.

6. Use Mass Notifications to Help Cover Shifts

When your support team is understaffed, they’ll likely struggle to handle incidents quickly. As a result, the work can pile up and potentially overwhelm them, leading to longer response times. Additionally, when you’re short-staffed, your team could have to put certain incidents on hold until a qualified staff member arrives, causing your response times to increase significantly.

With a mass notification system, your incident managers can quickly contact relevant staff members if you end up short-staffed. Instead of calling or messaging staff members individually to check their availability, a manager can use a mass notification system or an on-call communication system to alert employees about availabilities. By notifying team members in this manner, your managers save time and can often quickly get someone to cover a short-staffed shift, helping your team reduce their response times.

Mass notification systems can also help keep managers more focused on crucial tasks, like providing their expertise to support staff. Alongside a mass notification system’s ability to help managers quickly find coverage, managers can also use it to inform staff as soon as the shift is filled. This feature prevents them from having to spend time on the phone explaining to employees they’re no longer needed. Because fully staffed shifts and more focused managers often lead to reduced response time, mass notification systems are essential.

7. Reduce Waiting Time

When a customer has to wait for a long time on hold before a representative speaks to them and solves their problem, they can become frustrated and bring that frustration to the conversation with the representative. This waiting time can reduce the customer’s opinion of your company, and their feelings can make it more difficult for the representative to solve the customer’s issue. Additionally, in an emergency situation, the waiting time can affect the amount of damage or injuries.

If you want to improve your customers’ experiences, minimize wait times with these best practices:

  • Improve internal communication: At times, a representative may not have the expertise to handle a ticket. With greater internal communication, your team can better collaborate to solve a ticket and reduce wait times.
  • Greater data centralization: When a customer reaches out to your company, greater data centralization can help your team quickly know who the customer is and any relevant information they need about them. Data centralization also helps the representative access relevant information about a customer’s problem faster. By centralizing your data, you can reduce wait times and deliver a more personalized experience to customers.
  • Assign new tickets immediately: When a ticket comes through your system, your team should immediately assign it to the relevant representative. This fast assignment prevents tickets from becoming lost and gets customers to a representative fast.

Learn More About How Hyper-Reach Can Help

At Hyper-Reach, we can help you reduce problem resolution time. We offer a critical management system designed to help you send non-emergency and emergency mass alerts and notifications to your team. With our non-emergency communication solutions, you can speak with customers, send updates and manage special events and staff. Additionally, we know the importance of incident response, so we made our system to help you quickly eliminate rumors, put the right staff in action and distribute critical information.

Check out our solutions today to learn more about how we can reduce your incident resolution time. If you’re ready to try out our solutions or have any questions, please feel free to request a demo or contact us.

Guide to Wireless Emergency Alerts

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) are a critical part of the United States’ ability to respond to emergencies and send life-saving information to those in a disaster area. Relevant authorities use these alerts in conjunction with other emergency messages from sources like news broadcasts, radio and television’s Emergency Alert System and outdoor sirens. By knowing more about WEAs, you can better prepare your business or organization for emergencies.

Take a moment to learn more about what WEA messages are, their main types and the capabilities of WEA devices. Here, we’ll also cover the answers to frequently asked questions about WEAs and how an emergency notification company can help your organization. We’ll also explain why you should still sign up for emergency alerts from your local government even if you receive WEAs.

What Are Wireless Emergency Alerts?

WEAs are short emergency messages broadcast from cell towers to every WEA-enabled mobile device in a specific area. These messages allow authorized agencies, such as tribal, territorial, local, state and federal alerting authorities, to send out an emergency alert quickly. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) partners with wireless providers and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to deliver WEAs to people’s devices for public safety. Typically, wireless providers rely on cellular broadcast technology to deliver these alerts.

WEAs don’t require anyone to subscribe to a service or download an app to receive them. As a result, agencies can send these alerts to many devices with ease, informing the public of various disasters and emergencies. Additionally, these messages provide life-saving information and are short in length.

Types of WEA Alerts

Authorized agencies use several types of WEA alerts for specific situations. For example, an agency could send an AMBER Alert to alert a community of a kidnapping or send an imminent threat alert warning people of an extreme weather event. Learn more about the main types of WEA alerts below:

  • America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response (AMBER) Alerts: AMBER Alerts take the form of urgent bulletins sent out due to child-abduction cases. These alerts are crucial in informing the public of kidnappings and raising the chances a missing child gets home safely. A governmental agency can enable its community to help search for a missing child by sending out this alert.
  • Imminent threat alerts: Government agencies send out imminent threat alerts about threatening emergencies, such as active shooters, extreme weather events and human-made or natural disasters. These alerts only occur when these threats are happening or soon to happen.
  • Public safety alerts: Unlike imminent threat alerts, authorized agencies send out public safety alerts after an imminent threat has happened or when a threat isn’t imminent. These alerts are about events less dangerous than those described by imminent threat alerts. 
  • Opt-in test messages: Authorized agencies use opt-in messages to test state and local officials’ ability to deliver their WEAs to the public. These messages will always state they’re a test so they don’t cause panic.
  • Presidential alerts: The President of the United States of America can send WEA messages in the case of a national emergency.

What Devices Will WEAs Show Up On?

Most smartphone and many other devices are compatible with WEAs, which will receive them in the event of an emergency. Most of the time, WEAs will show up on smartphones. However, you can find devices other than handsets that are capable of receiving them. For example, some smartwatches and tablets can also receive WEAs.

Most wireless carriers, including Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T, offer WEA-capable devices. As well, all of the top phone manufacturers offer phones and other mobile devices with WEA capabilities. For example, Apple, Google, LG, Motorola, Nokia and Samsung all offer WEA-capable smartphones. While phones made before 2012 may not have WEA capabilities, almost all new phones sold in the US are WEA-compatible. 

What Are the Capabilities of WEA Devices?

A WEA-capable device can only receive messages of 360 or fewer characters. And older devices may be able to receive messages of 90 characters or less. The capabilities of a WEA device are determined by the WEA version it supports. As the technology has developed, the FCC and FEMA have continued to develop WEA alerts to provide more information in the event of an emergency.  As a result, you can find three versions of WEAs available today — WEA 1.0, WEA 2.0 and WEA 3.0.

Learn more about the different WEA versions below:

  • WEA 1.0: A device with WEA 1.0 capabilities can only receive messages with up to 90 characters. These devices may also receive messages with clickable URLs that link users to phone numbers or websites. 
  • WEA 2.0: As an upgrade to WEA 1.0, WEA 2.0 allows emergency personnel to send alerts with a maximum of 360 characters to compatible devices. These alerts support public safety messages, consumer opt-in functionally for receiving local and state messages, alert message prioritization and Spanish-language messages. It also includes all of the functionality of WEA 1.0. 
  • WEA 3.0: WEA 3.0 offers all of WEA 1.0 and WEA 2.0’s abilities, and it adds greater geo-targeting abilities. With this improved geo-targeting, emergency professionals can define the alert area more precisely and avoid sending messages to people outside the emergency area. If you have a WEA 3.0-compatible device, you may need to go to your device’s settings and turn on location services to receive the benefits of geo-targeting.

Alongside the functionality of various WEA versions, your device’s WEA capabilities might change based on where it’s located when it receives an alert. For example, depending on which mobile provider’s service area your device is located in, its capabilities can be different. Occasionally – but rarely – if your wireless service provider is conducting network maintenance and upgrades, WEAs might not be available.

More advanced devices tend to have greater WEA functionality. For instance, the latest mobile devices and smartphones are more likely to receive WEA 3.0 alerts, while older devices are more likely to only receive WEA 1.0 alerts. Usually, a wireless provider will have a list of their devices indicating their WEA abilities.

WEA Frequently Asked Questions

Many consumers and businesses have questions about WEAs. Since these alerts are essential to public safety, you may want to be as informed about them as possible. Review some of the main answers to frequently asked WEA questions below:

Can I Turn WEA Alerts On and Off?

Compatible WEA devices are usually automatically signed up to receive WEA messages, meaning you won’t have to turn them on to receive them. However, state and local testing alerts are typically disabled by default, so you’ll have to turn them on if you want to receive them.

If you want to turn WEA alerts off, you can block some of them. For example, you can turn off public safety messages and AMBER Alerts. However, you can’t turn off presidential alerts.

Can I Block WEA messages?

You can only block state and local testing alerts, public safety messages and AMBER Alerts. However, it’s not recommended to turn these alerts off, as they’re meant to keep you and others safe in the event of an emergency. In addition, due to the Warning, Alert and Response Network (WARN) Act, people can’t block WEA messages sent by the president.

Are WEA Messages Free?

WEA messages are a public service, and as a result, they’re completely free. After you receive one, you won’t have to pay any data or connection fees.

Who Will Receive WEA Alerts?

Agencies broadcast WEA alerts to the specific geographic area impacted by an emergency. For example, if an agency sent an alert to a zone in North Carolina, everyone with a WEA-capable mobile device would receive the alert, regardless of whether they’re a resident or just visiting the area. In other words, if you were visiting a zone affected by an emergency in North Carolina, but you live in New York, you’d still receive the alert since your mobile device is in the alert zone.

Are WEAs Text Messages?

WEAs aren’t text messages, even though they look like them. WEAs are transmitted using technology that’s not the same as the system used for SMS text messages and voice calls.

What Will Happen When I Receive a WEA Message?

When you receive a WEA alert, you’ll see it on your device’s screen, appearing much like a text message. These alerts will also call attention to themselves with unique vibrations and signals to ensure those with vision or hearing-related disabilities notice them.

Who Sends WEA Alerts?

Various agencies and authorities send out WEAs to the public. These alert originators include local and state government authorities and various federal agencies. Authorized public officials will send these alerts through FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) to wireless carriers participating in the WEA program. 

Do WEAs Track My Location?

No. While some people think WEAs track your location to send relevant messages, these alerts don’t work like that. Instead, nearby cell towers broadcast these messages to WEA-capable devices inside a geographic location. If your WEA-capable device is within a defined geographic location’s range, you’ll receive the message.

How Do I Know if My Wireless Carrier Offers WEAs?

All of the major wireless carriers offer WEA-compatible devices and transmit WEA messages. Over 100 wireless services providers support WEA messages.  If a wireless carrier doesn’t provide WEAs, the FCC requires it to notify its customers about the lack of WEAs. Before you choose a wireless carrier, it’s smart to confirm that they provide WEA-compatible devices and review the extent of their offerings. 

Will WEA Alerts Display on Devices Other Than Handsets?

WEAs will display on more devices than just handsets. For example, some tablets and smartwatches can receive WEAs.

How Geographically Precise Are WEAs?

When the WEA program first began, wireless providers typically sent alerts to geographic areas restricted to the countries or counties impacted by an emergency situation. In 2017, WEAs became even more precise. During this year, new rules were implemented that required wireless providers to send alerts to areas in emergency situations even when it was a single city or town. These alerts had to be sent to the best-approximated area affected by an emergency rather than the entire surrounding area.

In 2019, WEAs continued to evolve their precision, as participating wireless providers had to improve their alerts’ geo-targeting abilities even more. With these rules in place, providers must send their alerts to areas within a tenth of a mile overshoot, although this rule applies only to devices supporting WEA 3.0.

How Do I Know My Device Can Receive WEA Alerts?

If you want to find out if your device can receive WEA alerts, it’s a good idea to check with your wireless service provider. Because there are a few providers the don’t offer WEAs on any of their devices, it’s crucial to know if you’re receiving service from a company that doesn’t send out these alerts.

Additionally, some providers only offer WEA messages to some of their devices and in only specific areas. As a result, it’s best practice to check what WEA-capable devices your provider offers and where the company can deliver WEA alerts.

Will a WEA Interrupt My Phone Call?

WEAs will not interrupt your phone call. If you’re on the phone when a sender transmits a WEA, you probably won’t receive the message until after you end the call.

How Long Do WEA Messages Last?

Due to rules put in place in 2019, WEA messages have to be in a location and format that a wireless customer can access for up to 24 hours after receiving the message. Unless you delete the message within that time frame, it’ll stay on your mobile device or wireless phone for a day. The long-lasting nature of these messages allows you to have additional time to look over the alert and any emergency information it provides.

If I Get WEA Messages Should I Still Sign Up for Local Emergency Alerts?

Yes. Although WEA messages can warn you of many emergency situations, there are many kinds of dangerous situations that won’t result in a WEA message.  For example, boil water alerts, which are one of the most common types of alerts are not usually sent by WEA. And messages from your local emergency management or public safety agency will often be more targeted and accurate.

How Hyper-Reach Can Help Emergency Managers

At Hyper-Reach, our emergency notification solutions give emergency managers the ability to quickly transmit messages to numerous recipients. Since we have a variety of sending methods, we maximize the chances a recipient sees the message and can take appropriate action fast. When you partner with us, our solutions allow emergency managers to easily craft messages, define audiences based on characteristics or geography and provide information on when and how to send various messages.

The various mass notification features and tools we offer to businesses and organizations make us a go-to choice for emergency managers in many fields. Alongside sending messages to users, we also give managers the tools to send emergency alerts via social media, internet advertising, desktop pop-ups, digital signage and sirens. We provide easy user management to help managers easily send out alerts to relevant users. Additionally, our precise geographic targeting makes it simple to send alerts to people affected by an emergency.

We package our critical event management solutions into one unified communications platform. Some of our solutions include crisis management and incident response to ensure you can react quickly to an emergency and manage it appropriately. We also offer emergency messaging, mobile phone alerts, boil water advisories, on-call communications, weather alerts, non-emergency communication and more. Our many types of notifications assist organizations as they attempt to keep people fully informed.

Learn More About Our Alert System

With all the ways Hyper-Reach can help emergency managers better notify audiences about emergencies, you might be interested in partnering with us. Our many solutions can help emergency managers in various fields better protect people, profit margins and property. Since our software meets all of a public alert system’s strict requirements, you can trust our solutions to quickly and reliably deliver informative messages to people affected by an emergency.

If you’re interested in our alert system, take a moment to request a demo and free quote. For those who need more information, please feel free to contact us or review our solutions.

Guide to Boil Water Alerts

Guide to boil water alerts

Water is the most crucial natural resource on our planet. Think of how often you use it in your daily life. Cooking, washing, recreation, eating and drinking all rely on water. Even some electricity-generating systems need water to spin a turbine and produce energy. From the moment you wake up to the moment you rest your head, water is a fundamental part of life.

Most people in the U.S. experience the blessing of clean water available at their convenience. Turn on the kitchen tap, and you can receive a flow of crisp, clean water right to your home. But even in America, contaminants can enter the water supply, changing the way we use and consume the water we rely on every day. Understanding boil water alerts is the first step in navigating these situations.

What Is a Boil Water Alert?

Health departments will issue a boil water alert when a contaminant enters an area’s drinking water. This instance can also go by other names, including a boil water notice or boil water advisory. Whatever its name, a boil water alert is an emergency you should take seriously. You’ll have to adjust various aspects of your life to keep you and your loved ones safe. Drinking contaminated water can be detrimental to people’s health, so the adjustments made to avoid these consequences are more than worth it.

Your local government may release a boil water “precautionary advisory.” This type of alert means there is a possibility of water contamination, but authorities have yet to confirm it. Use your best judgment during precautionary advisories, but erring on the side of caution may be in your best interest. Treat a precautionary advisory as a regular boil water alert to ensure everyone is safer from the possibility of contamination.

Contamination of your area’s water supply can happen for many reasons, including the following.

  • A burst water pipe: When a water pipe bursts, exposure to outside variables compromises drinking water’s safety. Local authorities will have to fix the broken pipe and ensure water is safe to drink before you can return to typical water use.
  • Issues at water treatment facilities: Local water treatment facilities have state-of-the-art equipment to clean water, so it is safe for locals to drink and use in their daily lives. If these water treatment facilities run into problems, your local authorities will be quick to issue a boil water advisory. Regardless of the pollutant, you should boil any water that comes from your home’s faucets to ensure it is safe for use and consumption.
  • Natural disasters: Natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes and floods can pose a risk to your area’s water supply. Strong winds, fallen trees and chunks of dirt can damage water pipes, making water unsafe to drink. Floods can lead to harmful water conditions, as they add unknown organisms, particles, pollutants and bacteria into the water supply.

A primary source of concern during any of the above events is sewage getting into the water supply. Some waterborne illnesses that could spread through sewage include diarrhea, cholera, E. coli and salmonella. Always be careful to boil your water or stock up on bottled water to supplement your needs throughout the emergency. Ensure your water is clean before you drink it or use it for other purposes like cleaning your house or washing dishes.

How Do Boil Water Alerts Work?

It’s essential to keep calm and maintain a steady focus during boil water alerts. As long as you continue to have water running to your home, you and your family will make it through. Be sure to follow your local boil water advisory to stay current with the latest information for your area. Following their instructions will ensure your family remains safe, even as you make some adjustments to your life and routine.

You can tune into your local news station on your TV or radio to learn about the state of your boil water alert. These avenues of information work, but other modern methods can be more helpful to you. If your town uses an emergency mass notification system, you can receive boil water alerts right to your phone. You’ll stay abreast of the latest information and know when you can return to typical water use without missing a beat after receiving your local update.

Contact your local authorities to learn if you can register your phone number to receive local alerts and other updates, so you’re always ready in case of a boil water alert and other emergencies.

Boil Water Alert Tips

You can make it through a boil water alert with the right practices. You’ll have to make some adjustments to your daily routine, but these changes will help keep you and your loved ones safer throughout the event. Here are five helpful tips to use if your area is going through a boil water alert.

1. Boiling Water the Correct Way

Boiling your water to make it safe to consume and use is the cornerstone of a boil water alert. Failing to boil your water before drinking can result in illness and other negative consequences. Be sure to boil your water the correct way to reduce your risk of these outcomes.

Here is a step-by-step process for boiling your water.

  • Step one: Fill a pot with water from your faucet. If the water is cloudy, you may wish to run it through a coffee filter or clean cloth to remove any sediment or particles. Feel free to skip the filtering process if your water looks clear.
  • Step two: Bring the water in the pot to a rolling boil. How long do you boil water for a boil alert? Hold this boil for one minute at elevations below 6,500 feet. For elevations above 6,500 feet, you’ll have to boil water for three minutes to destroy any contaminants. Note that coffeemakers can’t hold the correct temperature long enough to remove pollutants, so you should use a stovetop pot or electric kettle for this step if available.
  • Step three: Let the water cool before storing or drinking it. Placing a pot of freshly boiled water in the fridge may put unnecessary strain on your fridge’s cooling system. And, of course, hot water can cause severe injury to anyone who tries to drink it. Let it rest on the counter until it reaches room temperature before use.

2. Using Your Boiled Water

Once you’ve boiled your water, it’s safe to use for several household purposes. Water is essential for everyday life, from quenching thirst to completing your daily routines. Here are a few of the ways you can use your boiled water.

  • Drinking: People drink a lot of water every day. According to the Mayo Clinic, men and women should consume about 15.5 and 11.5 cups of fluid per day, respectively. Depending on the size of your pot, storage containers and your family, you may need to do a lot of boiling to quench everyone’s thirst.
  • Making ice: Many modern refrigerators make ice using the water from your water lines. This ice is unsafe for consumption during boil water alerts. You must boil water from your faucet and let it cool before filling ice trays if you wish to use ice during a boil water alert. When your local government lifts the boil water mandate, you should run your ice maker and discard the ice repeatedly over a 24-hour period before it is safe to consume.
  • Preparing food and drinks: Many foods and beverages need water. From cooking soup or pasta to brewing tea or mixing a drink, water is essential. Make sure to only use boiled water in your recipes to keep yourself and your family members safe as you eat and drink. Remember to use pre-boiled water when brewing coffee, as coffeemakers can’t decontaminate water during a boil water alert.
  • Caring for pets: Pets can become ill from the same germs as their owners, and owners can catch illnesses from their pets. You should only give boiled or bottled, distilled water to your pets to ensure they stay safe from whatever contaminant has entered your local water supply.
  • Preparing baby formula: It’s paramount that you prepare baby formula with pre-boiled water to keep your infant healthy and happy. Also, be sure to sterilize your baby’s bottles and accessories before use.
  • Brushing your teeth: Brushing your teeth with water from the tap puts you at risk of accidentally swallowing dangerous substances. Use pre-boiled or distilled water when brushing your teeth to enjoy clean teeth without the risk of contamination.

3. Washing Dishes During a Boil Water Alert

The CDC recommends using disposable plates, utensils and cups during a boil water alert to simplify the process of keeping everyone in your family safe from dangerous water. If you’d rather continue using your regular dishes, you’ll have to take a few extra precautions. Dishwashers are safe to use if the water’s temperature during the final rinse cycle reaches 150 degrees Fahrenheit. You’re also safe to use your dishwasher if it has a sanitizing cycle that uses high heat to sanitize your dishes.

Hand-washing your dishes during a boil water alert will take a bit more effort. Here are some steps to follow if you plan on washing your dishes by hand:

  • Wash and rinse as usual, being sure to use hot water and soap. If you have a two-sided sink, do this step on one side, leaving the other empty for the next step. You could also use a separate, oversized container for step 2.
  • Add one teaspoon of unscented bleach to a separate basin per one gallon of warm water. Combine these elements to create a sanitizing solution for your dishes.
  • Soak your rinsed dishes in this solution for at least a minute.
  • Remove dishes from the sanitizing solution and let them air dry before using.

4. Cleaning Surfaces During a Boil Water Alert

Many people use water to clean inside and outside their homes. During typical days, you can use convenient water straight from your sink or outdoor hose to perform your cleaning routines. However, cleaning practices are a bit different during a boil water alert.

If you need to do some cleaning during these times, you should use boiled water, bottled water or a sterilized water and bleach solution. Using your regular household water could contaminate various surfaces and objects in and around your home. Be especially careful to use sterilized water to clean areas your family will touch, as some contaminants can transfer via contact.

5. Going to Restaurants or School During a Boil Water Alert

Some restaurants in your area may stay open during a boil water alert. Restaurants receive specific orders from environmental health officers on how to safely operate during these times. If a restaurant follows these orders and remains open, you can dine there knowing your food, beverages, dishes and utensils are safe. Restaurants can even serve fountain drinks if their equipment uses distillation or reverse osmosis.

Schools may or may not stay open during a boil water alert. Your school board will decide based on their staff’s and students’ needs while using information given to them by health and safety authorities. Stay informed with your area’s current news to decide if it is safe to send your child to school during a boil water alert.

Boil Water Alert FAQs

A boil water alert can be a time of uncertainty. Here are some frequently asked questions about boil water alerts to help you prepare for and make it through such a situation.

What Happens If You Drink Water During a Boil Alert?

Drinking water straight from the tap during a boil water alert can have severe consequences. The water may contain contaminants that put you at risk of various illnesses and health issues. Microorganisms, particles from the sewage system and unfiltered debris all pose risks to your health and well-being during a boil water alert.

Avoid drinking water from the tap at all costs during a boil water alert. Consider the water that comes from your faucet during these times as unfit to drink unless you take the proper steps to clean it. Stay current with updates from your local authorities to know when water from the tap is safe to drink again.

Is It Healthy to Boil Water for Drinking?

As its name states, a boil water alert tells people in a given area to boil their water before consumption. While drinking water straight from the tap could have dangerous consequences, boiled water is safe to drink because the high temperature kills any disease-causing bacteria.

The good news is that boiling water to remove contaminants is fast and easy. At elevations below 6,500 feet, bringing water to a rolling boil for one minute is enough to make it safe to drink and use for other purposes. At elevations above 6,500 feet, you’ll need to boil your water for three minutes to remove contaminants. Once the water cools, it’s OK to drink.

Can You Shower During a Boil Water Alert?

You can shower during a boil water alert. Be sure to take the correct precautions and instruct members of your household to do the same, as showering during a boil water alert poses some risks. Make sure everyone in your family avoids drinking any water from the showerhead during their shower.

Keep your mouth closed during the length of your shower. If you have toddlers or infants who need help bathing, take every measure to ensure the water stays out of their mouths. Consider giving infants and toddlers sponge baths to reduce their risk of ingestion. Explain to the members of your household that it is still safe to shower, but they need to take these extra precautions to keep themselves safe.

Can You Wash Clothes During a Boil Order?

If the water entering your house is free from dirty substances, you are safe to do your laundry as usual. Hot water cycles and the heat from your dryer will help sanitize your clothing, giving you peace of mind. The real risk during boil water alerts is drinking contaminated water, which is almost impossible during a standard laundry routine.

For this reason, you can wash your clothes with confidence during a boil water alert. Your family can wear washed clothes without any negative consequences. As always, listen to local authorities to learn about any special precautions or suggestions during the boil water alert, as every situation can be different.

Can You Drink Filtered Water During a Boil Order?

You should only drink properly boiled water during a boil water alert in your area. Activated charcoal filters and other forms of household water filters can’t remove contaminants associated with boil water alerts. Only drink water after boiling it, and avoid using your filters during these emergencies.

Running water through your filters can contaminate them. Then, when you use the filter after the boil water alert has ended, you could put yourself at risk of drinking a lingering contaminant. If your area is under a boil water alert, retire your filters and only drink water after boiling it. You can store boiled water indefinitely, so keep it in your fridge in a sealed container to always have some drinking water available.

How Long Do Boil Orders Last?

Boil water orders can last any length of time. Due to the many possible reasons for a boil water alert, the length of time one lasts will vary. Most boil water alerts last 24 to 48 hours, but in extreme circumstances, these emergencies can last far longer. It all depends on the cause of the alert and how fast local agencies can fix the issue.

Your local authorities will put out a statement when the water in your area is safe to drink again.  In the meantime, you’ll need to practice patience in case the boil water alert lasts for an extended period.

How to See If There Is a Boil Water Advisory

The last thing you want is to drink water that contains pollutants, microorganisms or other contaminants. Your local water company will put out statements if the water is unsafe to drink. Make sure you subscribe to any available e-newsletters or sign up for text alerts that come straight to your smartphone.

In today’s society, information travels fast. You may lack time to turn on the news or read the local paper to learn about a boil water alert. These electronic updates will let you know when your area is under a boil water order and when the water is safe to drink again. Avail yourself of these automatic alerts to stay informed and keep yourself and your family safer.

Find the Right Solution With Hyper-Reach

Hyper-Reach offers instant mass notifications for any situation. When you need to contact your team, your employees or your town during an emergency, you need an electronic solution that makes it easy and convenient for everyone. Hyper-Reach is that solution. Our services can help you keep people informed and safer during a boil water alert and other critical events requiring mass updates.

We started as a one-man company back in 1995 and have grown into a leading provider of mass notification services, as well as other computer-enabled communications solutions. When you need to contact a large group of people with a crucial message, our services can make the process easy and intuitive. Contact us today for more information about our mass notification solutions. We look forward to serving you.

Making it Easy for Citizens to Register for Emergency Alerts

We’ve been working on a comprehensive “marketing playbook” to help get citizens signed up for emergency alerts. With the right tactics, we think we can get 40% or more of a community’s residents signed up for alerts, instead of the 2%-6% which is much more typical. 

We want to talk about what local governments do – and don’t do – to make it easy for residents to sign up for their mass notification system. So we did a little research. Using a random sample of 50 governments we knew had an alert system (including Hyper-Reach, Everbridge, OnSolve, and Rave Mobile Safety) we reviewed their website and did Internet searches to see how easy it would be for a citizen to find their sign up form. 

In case you’re interested, it was a pretty diverse sample, ranging from Los Angeles, CA to Surrey County, NC, with lots of other cities and counties around the country. Here’s what we found: 

Sign Up Links Are (Mostly) on the Home Page

This was great news. While the link wasn’t always very visible or easy to find, it was on the home page in more than 2/3rds of local government websites. 

But you can do better.  After reviewing every homepage, here are a few suggestions: 

  1. Use a button instead of text. A lot of the time, the link was just in the form of text, making it hard to see. A button, or even some bolding and highlighting of the letters would help it stand out. 
  2. Put it high on the page. Some home pages take 2, 3 and even 4 screenfuls.  We understand: your county or city has a lot of information to convey. But if you want people to act, you need to make it easy for them to see the link instead of making them scroll down to the bottom.
  3. Eliminate ambiguity. Many websites seem to have multiple ways to sign up for “alerts.” (This is especially true of CivicPlus websites.) In reality, many of these alerts have nothing to do with emergencies, but often it’s not so clear. Look at your website and ask yourself, “if I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, would I know which alerts to sign up for?”

How Many Clicks to Get to the Form?

This was not such great news.  Most of the time, the link on the home page went to some other page – such as the Emergency Management page – instead of directly to the form. And then to another page. And another. About 2/3rds of the time, someone looking for the signup form would need to click four or more times. And every click is an opportunity for your citizen to give up before filling that form out. 

One page should be the most someone needs to go through to get to the signup form.  And that page should have a very clear link to the form, preferably in the form of a button.

Can You Find it on Google?

Since 28% of websites didn’t have the link on their homepage, what about Google? We searched on “emergency alerts for [county/city, state]” (filling in the name of the community), and found that the link only showed up about a third of the time. 

This is a great opportunity for search engine optimization or “SEO”.  It’s exactly the kind of information that search engines want to help people find. If you don’t know how to do SEO, we’re planning to write a future article to help you. 

How Many Clicks From the Google Results?

At this point, we’re down to a very small sample, but once again you can see that a resident looking for their community’s alert sign up form has to do more work than they should. 

What’s the bottom line?

Based on this research, it shouldn’t be surprising that most communities get so few people signed up for emergency notification. It’s too hard to find the form – even when you know what you’re looking for (and most people don’t.)

Want to do better? We’ve identified more than 50 steps that can help you get more of your citizens signed up. And we’re working on more!

If you’re a Hyper-Reach customer, we’ll be contacting you about how you can improve your signup rates.  And if you’re not, set up a demo and we’ll tell you all about it.

Use Templates for Fast, Quality, Consistent Emergency Weather Messages

Message templates are a useful way to create high quality, consistent messages quickly and make sure that you’ve included all needed information. 

To be clear, we distinguish a message template from a pre-written standard message you might use in a specific situation. A pre-written message might describe a specific type of situation, such an active shooter or tornado alert, but not have key details specific to the actual situation. For example:

Pre-written message: “A tornado warning is in effect for this area.  Please take shelter immediately.”

Detailed specific message: “A tornado warning is in effect in northeast Clay County for the next 2 hours.  Please shelter in place immediately until 9PM or otherwise notified.”

While there’s a place for both, the extra information in the second message gives it additional authority and credibility, which can help its effectiveness. In journalism, they tell you to follow the 5Ws (what, when, where, why and who) model. As Dr. Dennis Mileti has noted, what the message says is really important. For example, lack of detail can undermine a message and result in people looking for confirmation and delaying action. 

We think most emergency managers agree. After reviewing hundreds of mass notification messages, we found at least some of these specific details in more than 80% of them.

We believe strongly in Dr. Mileti’s model, which converts the 5Ws into WHAT to do, WHEN to do it,  WHERE is the danger, WHY (the hazard or consequence) and WHO’s giving the message.  

Because SMS and IPAWS messages must be short, we recognize the need to abbreviate, but that’s an additional argument for creating templates – so you can make sure you pack the most information into the space you have. 

Fortunately, Hyper-Reach makes it easy to create unlimited customized and flexible message templates.  For each “W” element you need to write for a specific situation, you can just type a prompt or cue in curly brackets, like this: {describe hazard}.  Then, when you go to use the template, you’re prompted to “fill in the blank” by writing what would go in place of that prompt (we call them tokens.) 

In fact, we think templates are so useful, we’ve included them in our smartphone app – Hyper-Reach Launch™. We know that most of our competitors are lacking IPAWS support in their smartphone app, which makes us wonder if they have templates in BOTH their web interface and smartphone app.

Below you’ll find 90-character and 160-character messages we created for you to use or modify to your needs. The character limit for a single SMS message is 160 characters, although Hyper-Reach can send longer ones. While the old length was 90, FEMA has increased a WEA message length up to 360 characters on 4G LTE networks and beyond. WEA message length will continue to be a maximum of 90 characters on 3G and earlier networks.

Flood alert

90-character message:

{Source}: Flood Risk {Location}. Leave by {Evacuation time}. Msg Exp {Expiration time}

Example:

Source: Elm Cty Sheriff

Location: btw Main&Pleasant St, Woodton

Evacuation time: 2PM

Expiration time: 6PM

Resulting message:

Elm Cty Sheriff: Flood Risk btw Main&Pleasant St, Woodton. Leave by 2PM. Msg Exp 6PM.

160-character message:

{Source}: Flood Risk {Location}. Move {Secure distance} out by {Evacuation time} or you’ll drown. More info: {Link}. Msg Exp {Expiration time}

Example 160-character message:

Source: Elm Cty Sheriff

Location: btw Main&Pleasant St, Woodton

Secure distance: 2+ blocks 

Evacuation time: 2PM

Expiration time: 6PM

Resulting message: 

Elm Cty Sheriff: Flood Risk btw Main&Pleasant St, Woodton. Move 2+ blocks out by 2PM or you’ll drown. More info: goo.gl/ces2Ac. Msg Exp 6PM.

How your citizens will see it

 

 

Tornado Alert:

90-character message:

{Source}: TORNADO ALERT for {Location} until {Expiration time}. More info: {Link} 

Example:

Source: Fayette Cty EMA

Location: Fayette Cty, OH

Expiration date: 10PM

Link: goo.gl/5hyPLe

Resulting message:

Fayette Cty EMA: TORNADO ALERT for Fayette Cty, OH until 10PM. More info: goo.gl/5hyPLe.

160-character message:

{Source}: TORNADO ALERT for {Location} until {Expiration time}. Take shelter now. Check local media & authorities. Possible evacuation orders: {Link} 

Example:

Source: Fayette Cty EMA

Location: Fayette Cty, OH

Expiration date: 10PM

Link: goo.gl/5hyPLe

Resulting message:

Fayette Cty EMA: TORNADO ALERT for Fayette Cty, OH until 10PM. Take shelter now. Check local media & authorities. Possible evacuation orders: goo.gl/5hyPLe.

 

Hurricane Alert:

90-character message:

{Source}: HURRICANE ALERT {Location} until {Evacuation time}. Take shelter! {Link} 

Example:

Source: Fayette Cty EMA

Location: in this area

Evacuation time: 7/14 @ 6PM

Link: goo.gl/5hyPLe

Resulting message:

Fayette Cty EMA: HURRICANE ALERT in this area 7/14 @ 6PM. Take shelter! goo.gl/5hyPLe

160-character message:

{Source}: HURRICANE ALERT for {Location}. Take shelter by {Evacuation time}. Urgently complete efforts to protect life and property. More info: {Link} 

Example:

Source: Fayette Cty EMA

Location: Fayette Cty

Evacuation time: 7/14 @ 6PM

Link: goo.gl/5hyPLe

Resulting message:

Fayette Cty EMA: HURRICANE ALERT for Fayette Cty. Take shelter by 7/14 @ 6PM. Urgently complete efforts to protect life and property. More info: goo.gl/5hyPLe

 

Snow squall alert

90-character message:

{Source}: Snow squall alert for this area til {Expiration time}. Icy roads. Slow down! 

Example:

Source: Monroe Cty

Expiration time: 1/29 at 10PM

Resulting message:

Monroe Cty: Snow squall alert for this area til 1/29, 10PM. Icy roads. Slow down! 

160-character message:

{Source}: Snow squall alert for this area til {Expiration time}. Slow down or delay travel. Near zero visibility & icy roads in heavy snow. Updates: {Link}. 

Example:

Source: Monroe Cty

Expiration time: 1/29 at 10PM

Link: goo.gl/7hwPXe

Resulting message:

Monroe Cty: Snow squall alert for this area til 1/29, 10PM. Slow down or delay travel. Near zero visibility & icy roads in heavy snow. Updates: goo.gl/7hwPXe.

 

Wildfire alert1

90-character message:

{Source}: Extreme heat {Location} til {Expiration time}. Possible wildfires. Monitor news.

Example:

Source: San Diego Cty SO

Location: across the cty

Expiration time: 7/12

Resulting message:

San Diego Cty SO: Extreme heat across the cty til 7/12. Possible wildfires. Monitor news.

160-character message:

{Source}: Catastrophic fire danger forecast in {Location} til {Expiration time}. Avoid bush fire prone areas. Monitor local news. Updates: {Link}. 

Example:

Source: Monroe Cty

Location: some areas of the cty

Expiration time: 7/12

Link: goo.gl/7hwPXe

Resulting message:

San Diego Cty SO: Catastrophic fire danger forecast in some areas of the cty til 7/12. Avoid bush fire prone areas. Monitor local news. Updates: goo.gl/7hwPXe

 

Wildfire alert2

90-character message:

{Source}: Wildfire {Location}. Evacuate {Evacuation time}. Call {Phone}.

Example:

Source: San Diego Cty SO

Location: north of Hwy 14, east of Route 5

Evacuation time: now

Resulting message:

San Diego Cty SO: Wildfire north of Hwy 14, east of Route 5. Evacuate now! Call 211.

160-character message:

{Source}: Wildfire {Location}. Evacuations occurring! Avoid high-risk areas. More info: {Link}. For evacuation call {Phone}.

Example:

Source: San Diego Cty SO

Location: north of Hwy 14, east of Route 5

Link: goo.gl/7hwPXe

Phone: 211

Resulting message:

San Diego Cty SO: Wildfire north of Hwy 14, east of Route 5. Evacuations occurring! Avoid high-risk areas. More info: goo.gl/7hwPXe. For evacuation call 211.

 

 

Minimize Human Losses & Economic Damage During Flood Season

Flood season is on its way – so as a critical event management company – it’s time for us to talk about this hazard. Flooding is the most common natural disaster in most US states – and the most expensive. According to the American Red Cross, around 90 percent of damage caused by natural disasters is from flooding. Floods cause an average of 100 US deaths each year. Since 2000, overall flood damages have quadrupled in the U.S.

So what are the risks, trends and what can be done to be prepared better for floods?

Flooding usually occurs after intense and repeated rainfalls. Flood season varies for inland and coastal territories. Inland areas are most often at risk during spring and summer because of heavy seasonal rains. Coastal and nearby inland areas are more likely to flood due to summer and fall tropical storms.

And oceans are rising faster now. NOAA reports that rising seas are bringing water into coastal communities at record rates. That means more damage to homes, inundated roads, and unsafe drinking water, among other things.

By 2030, the frequency of high-tide flooding could double or triple, according to NOAA. They project that, by 2050, that number could be up to 15 times as great, with the typical coastal community flooding between 25 and 75 days a year.

And flooding is not something we’re in control of. While forecasts may be more precise, severe weather can cause drastic damage whether expected or not. But we can get prepared.

Here’s what we think emergency response teams can do to minimize the human losses and economic damage during flood season:

  • Know your flood risks. 

According to the NY Times, flood risk is far greater than official government estimates. Across the United States, new calculations by the First Street Foundation suggest that millions of people are exposed to a hidden threat of flooding — and one that will only grow as climate change worsens. The map below will help you to estimate the risk for your county. Or you can look up a specific address at the foundation’s new website.

If you prefer a historical view, you can see empirical flood risk and flood-related costs for your state and county at: https://www.fema.gov/data-visualization/historical-flood-risk-and-costs

  • Be proactive. Inform your community about flood risks in advance.

Grab people’s attention about the problem and give them information they will find useful. (The floodfactor.com site is great for this because folks can look up their specific address.)  Share potential flood-related costs with your community. 

Get people’s attention by appealing to their pocketbooks. According to a new Stanford University-led study almost 4 million single-family homes in floodplains are overvalued by an average of $11,526 per house – nearly $44 billion in total. And that’s without accounting for the greater risk predicted by the First Street Foundation FloodFactor site. 

Spread the word via social media, your county or city website, local newspapers, etc. And when you do, use that as a reason for residents to sign up for emergency alerts, assuming you have a system. Here’s a press release from our marketing plan for citizen sign up that you can use as a model. (If you don’t have a system, check out Hyper-Reach.)

  • Develop preparation plans and protocols.

You’ve probably already done this – after all, you’re in emergency management. But we have to say it anyway.  When it comes to emergency preparedness, knowing exactly what you are going to do and say to the public is absolutely essential. 

  • Make sure you have a mass notification system at your disposal. 

With a mass notification system like Hyper-Reach, you can both send alerts to the public and also communicate with your staff quickly and effectively. With a unified communication platform, you can send hundreds or thousands of voice, text, email and other messages from one screen and with a  minimum of effort. And if the system is Hyper-Reach, you can even reach people with browser push notifications and Amazon Alexa smart speakers.

  • Create message templates for flood alerts

Message templates save time and eliminate ambiguity by providing a “fill-in-the-blank” approach to creating alert messages.  We’ve developed some emergency weather templates based on the Five W’s (Who, What, When Where, and Why) principle.  Feel free to use them as is, or as a model to create your own. 

Don’t have an emergency notification system in place? Take a look at Hyper-Reach today. It’s the easiest-to-use, most scalable, reliable and secure mass notification solution for public safety, local government, education, and business.