Using Alert Systems for Events.

Got a local event going on? Whether it’s a bass tournament, a concert or a marathon, many communities have local events that bring in lots of visitors from outside their immediate jurisdictions. And communication with those visitors can be difficult during emergencies and other important situations.

Hyper-Reach can help.

Our new EventReach™ service lets event attendees quickly and easily register for emergency alerts and other important information, just by texting a code to our instant registration number. Then, when you need to send information to your attendees, just create and send a message in the Hyper-Reach system. It’s as simple as that.

With EventReach, registrations are kept active for as long as you determine. You can keep registrations active before, during and after your event to notify visitors while they are on their way, while attending the event, and when they’re on their way home. Here are some of the kinds of messages you can send:

  • Traffic issues around the event
  • Announcements of drawings, surprise events
  • Weather events
  • Delays and changes of venue
  • Cancellations
  • Emergency situations
  • Thank you messages for attending

And EventReach is fully integrated with the Hyper-Reach system, which means that when you send emergency notifications based on the area where the event is taking place, your message will go to both your residents and your visitors, without having to select the visitors list separately. 

So if you’ve got an event coming up, try the new EventReach service. Just contact your Hyper-Reach representative to learn how. 

What India Can Teach Us About Emergency Alerts.

At the beginning of May, the state of Odisha, on the east coast of India, was hit by a cyclone (aka hurricane) with up to 125 mph winds. This is a very poor part of India, where a more powerful storm had killed over 9,000 people 20 years ago. But because of advance preparations, a “zero casualties” policy of the Indian government, and millions of emergency messages, the official death toll from the storm is less than 80 people.

A lot of preparations went into minimizing the number of deaths. Over 900 shelters were created and evacuation plans were tested. A disaster task force, command and control structure and other elements were put in place, and people were recruited and trained to help. There was also a big improvement in early warning systems.  

Emergency notification was also a big part of the preparations and response.  As the New York Times reported: 

“To warn people of what was coming, they deployed everything they had: 2.6 million text messages, 43,000 volunteers, nearly 1,000 emergency workers, television commercials, coastal sirens, buses, police officers, and public address systems blaring the same message on a loop, in local language, in very clear terms: ‘A cyclone is coming. Get to the shelters.’”

There is no IPAWS or equivalent in India. Instead, the government asks mobile carriers to send out messages on an ad hoc basis. There is also extensive use of WhatsApp, the messaging platform owned by Facebook. But mobile phone ownership averages less than 65% in India, vs. almost 100% in the US, so many of these messages may have started by phone, but were then passed by word of mouth to get to everyone. A friend of ours in India tells us that it’s common for people to pass important messages on to the people they know, both in person and by electronic means. 

Our key takeaway is simple: emergency alerts save lives. We also think it’s important to send those alerts as many ways as possible, and to provide consistent messaging to drive home what the risks are and what officials want the public to do. We continue to develop Hyper-Reach to enable sending messages in lots of ways (including social media, RSS, push and Internet messaging) and to encourage consistency in messaging, using templates. And we’ve got new things coming this year to help with all of that. 

The Continued Loss of Landlines

The CDC issued its latest survey results a few weeks ago, showing that the loss of landlines continues, although at a slightly slower pace than in previous releases. According to their data, 41.7% of US households had a landline as of June 2018, a drop of about 1% from the previous six months. 

So that means that today, the percent of households with landlines is likely under 41% (it goes down at least 1% every 6 months.)

Here are a few interesting tidbits from the report:

1) It’s just a matter of time before landlines have gone the way of the dodo. Almost 80% of people aged 25-34 use only cellphones, while only about 30% of those over 65 do. That means that landlines will fade more and more as older people pass away.

2) There is a huge regional difference in landline usage across the US.  Specifically, about 40% of the Northeast (Pennsylvania to Maine) is wireless only, while just under 60% of the rest of the country is. That means that landlines are much less effective from Ohio to Florida to California. 

3) There’s not much difference between urban and non-urban areas. Perhaps because the cellphone carriers have improved coverage in rural areas, the CDC says that both “metropolitan” and “non-metropolitan” households have about the same level of “wireless only.”

4) Renters are much more likely to be “wireless only” than homeowners, probably because homeowners tend to be older. The challenge here for Emergency Managers and notification systems is that renters move about 4 times more often than homeowners, so keeping a registration system updated with their current address is much more difficult. 

IPAWS Gets Better and Better

A recent report by the FCC on the results of October’s nationwide IPAWS test spurred us to review where we are with Wireless Emergency Alerts – and where we’re going.  The one line update: Important to have now – still somewhat flawed – but getting better and better. 

Here are the details:

1) The results of the October 3 test demonstrated that IPAWS can be an important delivery method but showed much room for improvement.  The FCC concluded that about 72% of respondents got the WEA test message, although the methodology they used was not described very well. Apparently the FCC was able to determine that some carriers didn’t even send the message, while not all users received one in areas where a carrier did send the message. There’s even a report of one guy with two phones who got the message twice on one phone and none on the other. 

The FCC report didn’t say anything about how long it took for the message to be delivered, but it’s worth noting that they had provided earlier guidance that it could take up to 30 minutes for the message to be delivered. 

2) Following the test message, there were reports on the west coast that many mobile users lost access to the phone network.  “…after [the test message] I lost all internet, Gmail, apps — everything stopped working,” one user reported. We’re inclined to believe AT&T that this was a freak coincidence, but it’s not the best PR.

3) Regardless, 70ish% is still a lot better than what calls to landlines would result in – at least for many emergencies. That’s because we’re at the point where just over 40% of households have a landline phone at home, and many calls to landlines wind up on the answering machine.  So IPAWS is important – NOW. 

4) Let’s take the flaws and improvements together.  First, there’s the message length, currently set to 90 characters. That’s supposed to go to 360 characters by May of 2019. While there’s a best practices report out that says you should have over 1,000 characters for emergency messages, 360 is a huge improvement over 90, especially since you can now include links to webpages, which can contain images, more text, etc. 

5) The second flaw getting fixed is the geographic targeting of IPAWS, which can be pretty poor. Current targeting can be off by up to 20+ miles, even though the FCC requires that carriers use a “best approximation” standard. Under new rules which go into effect in November, targeting will be expected to be no less accurate than 0.1 mile.  But this level of precision will be dependent on logic in the phone, so the impact of that November deadline is likely to be felt gradually as people get new phones or software upgrades to their existing phones. 

6) The third flaw being addressed is the whole area of alert quality, which includes false alerts, like the infamous Hawaii example, expired alerts that need to be cancelled, alerts that cross jurisdictions or go to the wrong areas, and other general user errors.  Here, there are no specific rules in place yet, but there is much activity in Congress and elsewhere to provide fixes. In particular, FEMA has estimated that they’ll have a new set of rules in place by October to motivate both Alerting Authorities (that’s you) and software providers (that’s us) to do more training, testing and error prevention. And since FEMA has already indicated the kind of changes they’re looking for, Hyper-Reach has either already implemented or is hard at work implementing the expected changes.

So while IPAWS has its warts, it continues to develop in the right direction.  And that’s critical, because it’s the only technology so far with a reasonable chance of getting a highly targeted message to a majority of citizens under threat of an emergency. 

KEEPING IT FRESH. Hyper-Reach: Relentless Pioneers in Emergency Notification

You may not be aware of just how innovative we are at Hyper-Reach, but we have a long history of “firsts” in Emergency Notification!

  • first to offer a hosted mass notification system
  • first to send a message to be broadcast by IPAWS
  • first to fully automate weather notifications
  • first to provide specific local caller-ID for voice notifications
  • first to provide conferencing/ call-forwarding options
  • first to provide managed recipient response options
  • first to reply with last message sent in response to *66 calls and “missed call” callbacks
  • first to provide community sign-up via Phone/Text to same #
  • first to offer the most accurate geo-targeting by combining the most current data with Google maps functionality

I know that’s not even all of them…  that’s just off the top of my head. In some of these cases it’s not just “first” but is still “only” and a good number of these features are still not available with most, if not all, of our competitors.

Now we don’t brag a lot, and we don’t advertise a lot. It’s more our style to build relationships with our clients and find personal ways to make connections. It may be a little bit slower that way, and we may not be the biggest vendor in our space, but we have an excellent offering, and by keeping our costs down, we can offer our clients a better value than they will find elsewhere. We’ll never be too big for our britches.

You may have seen this quote on our brochures or proposals:

OUR COMMITMENT:

We never compromise our standards. Determined to remain the easiest-to-use full-featured emergency mass notification service, we are committed to treating our customers with speed, intelligence, and courtesy.

And we mean it.  

So we listen to our clients when they tell us what they’d “like to have” and if it makes sense on a broader scale, we incorporate it into our platform.  Sometimes we even come up with an idea or two of our own!

We are always adding new features and tools, improving existing ones, and developing some pretty neat stuff to make your lives easier when sending out notifications, and give you added functionality so you can get more value out of your Emergency Notification System. Here are just a few of the most recent additions.

Dynamic Lists:  Eliminating the need to manage group lists, your dynamic lists will update themselves!  So much easier than having to maintain your internal group lists.

Hyper-Reach Launch:It’s easier than 1-2-3… now you can launch and track your notifications quickly and easily from your iOS or Android device, no matter where you are.

Pop-Ups:Community members can respond to pop-up suggestions on your web site, to opt-in for pop-up notifications.  Quick and easy and extends your reach.

Message Templates:Talk about getting a message out fast!  Our new Message Templates allow you to grab and go – just fill in the blanks with the details and send it out!

If you’d like to learn more and see these features and others in a live web demo, we’d love to give you a closer look! Just request our demo here.

Increasing role of Emergency Notification System

Recent years have been memorable for large and increasingly damaging wildfires in California, Washington and other western states and destructive hurricanes in Texas, Puerto Rico, North Carolina and Florida.

It has been over a month since hurricane Florence hit the Carolinas but its impact is still being felt, and will be for some time. The storm set a new rainfall record in North Carolina and left about 1 million people without power.  A few weeks later, category 4 hurricane Michael caused 19 deaths in four states as of Tue, Oct. 16. Former National Hurricane Center (NHC) head Rick Knabb said: “Michael could be one of the worst hurricanes to ever strike the Florida Big Bend/Florida Panhandle region”.

Some experts believe that natural disasters such as wildfires, hurricanes and flooding are likely to become more frequent and severe in the future. Which is all the more reason to do everything we can to prepare for such severe weather events.

As an emergency notification provider, we are aware of the difficulties Emergency Managers deal with during natural disasters. One of the biggest challenges is in notifying the community quickly and effectively about the dangers, and providing citizens with important up-to-date information and instructions.

With a growing number of severe weather events, more and more Emergency Managers rely on their emergency notification systems (ENS) to notify the public, since they can reach thousands of people in just minutes with potentially life-saving information and instructions. But even if you have an ENS in place it’s only half the battle. It’s critical that you get as many  of your citizens as possible to sign up for emergency alerts, since the vast majority of people no longer use landlines.

Experience shows that the number of subscribers goes up after a major emergency has already happened and caused big damage or even loss of lives. It’s unfortunate that it takes a catastrophe to get people’s attention, but to some degree that’s just human nature. On the other hand, it is still a great opportunity to raise your community enrollment rate before another emergency strikes.

That’s why it’s so important to use all the means available to you to enroll your community members. It’s important to make sure they have all the options presented to them, and that you don’t give up on getting them enrolled. Let them sign up in a way they’ll feel comfortable with.  One of the groups at greatest risk is the elderly, which is why it’s so important to give them options that work for them.

Here are some of the other most common obstacles holding people back from registering with your emergency notification system:

  • Ignorance: Some simply are not aware that you have a notification system in place and that they need to register if they want to receive emergency alerts.
  • Language barrier: They may not know that alerts are available in their own language.
  • Difficulty:  The registration link is hard to find.
  • Time restraints:  The registration process is too lengthy or complicated.
  • Fear of too many notifications:  They don’t want irrelevant or unnecessary notifications and don’t want to be awakened during late night hours

Hyper-Reach offers a number of enrollment methods to help its clients to develop a successful outreach campaign.  When all the options are utilized effectively, we find our clients can greatly increase their enrollment rates.

Hyper-Reach is also 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.

Find out more about how Hyper-Reach goes above and beyond in helping you enroll your community. Request a demo now.