Emergency Templates – Get the Right Words Out Faster, More Effectively.

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In an emergency, you want to get alerts out quickly. Emergency templates can help. They save you time and also help you create and send clear and effective messages with ease. 

Hyper-Reach added a templates feature to our notification system early this year. With Hyper-Reach, you can create as many predefined, customized templates as you want. You can save them, edit them and use them whenever you need to notify your community – all at no additional cost.

Check out our short video on how easily a message can be created with our predefined templates.

Hyper-Reach templates are made up of two components: “script” and “tokens”.  The “script” is the wording you use that doesn’t change when you send the message, while the “tokens” are placeholders that are replaced by words and numbers for the specific situation your alert is describing. When the words and numbers are used in place of the tokens, the entire message makes sense.   

Here’s a simple example. The “script” is the words in bold, while the tokens are the words within the curly brackets, as well as the curly brackets themselves:

Water main break at {location}. Boil water until {Expiration time}. For updates, {Info link}.

The Hyper-Reach template structure is designed to accommodate “best practices” defined by the experts in the field. Both Dr. Dennis Mileti, Professor Emeritus and former Director of the Natural Hazards Center at UC Boulder and FEMA list Source, Hazard, and Guidance as elements you need to have in your messages.  So use these for the “script” component.

Source

Who is the message from? Your citizens want to know if the message is from an authoritative source. You’ll want to shorten the name of your organization as much as possible for messages with limited space (e.g. IPAWS, SMS.) 

Hyper-Reach can automatically provide the “source” information through a customized caller-ID and custom audio (for phone messages,) as well as for SMS and email messages.  So you only need to add Source for IPAWS and certain other types of messages.

Hazard

What is the danger?  While you can create a generic message, a specific template for the most common hazards in your area (e.g. floods, wildfires, boil water alert etc.) will be helpful. Be sure to include relevant location and time parameters in either the hazard or guidance description when needed.

Guidance

What should the recipient do? Be brief and use standardized words for guidance, e.g.: “evacuate”, “take shelter”, “shelter in place”, check for updates, etc.

Unlike the predefined script, tokens are variable parts of your message, indicated by curly brackets. Hyper-Reach allows you to use any words you want as tokens. We recommend using words that tell the person sending the alert the type of information to fill in, such as {age}, {height}, {guidance time}, {expiration time}, etc. 

Below are token examples you might use depending on the message type. Note that you can use whatever labels you want, although you should use only letters: (A-Z, a-z) and numbers (0-9).  Avoid the use of other characters (!,@,#,$,%,^,&,*,(,),_,+,-,=,?,/,>,<,:,;,{,},[,],|,)

Location

Where is the hazard? When using this, you’ll fill in a description of the place, using language the recipient will understand. 

Guidance

time

When should the recipient act on the information? This could be filled in with words like “immediately” or with a time like 10AM.

Expiration

time

When is the hazard expected to be over or no longer relevant?  Obviously this only applies when the information is available.  You might also plan on using “unknown” to fill in a template.

Description

Can be used for missing person or BOLO alerts. You could also be more specific and define features like “race”, “height”, “weight”, “age”, etc.

Info link

Since SMS and IPAWS messages are limited in length, including links into your message allows you to provide more detail and updates online.

When defining the message template, you’ll put the tokens in curly brackets and type the script as normal text.  For example:

Monroe Cnty 911: Water main break at {location}. Boil water until {Expiration time}. For updates, {Info link}.
Or
Burke Cnty Emergency Mgt: Missing: {name}. {sex}, {age} yrs old,{height},{weight} lbs.,{hair color} hair. Last seen at {location} wearing {clothes}. If seen,{Guidance}. For info, {info link}.

You can even prompt for more specific information within the tokens themselves: 

Burke Cnty Emergency Mgt: Missing person {name}. {Description including sex age ht wt hair}. Last seen {where} wearing {clothes}. If seen,{Guidance}. For info, {info link}.

Although we suggest pre-defining scripts for specific types of emergencies, you can also make a very generic template by treating some of the script elements as tokens.  For example:

Overton/Pickett 911:{Hazard} at {Location} until {Expiration time}.{Guidance}{Guidance time}.

We recommend creating message templates not only for different scenarios but also for different communication channels: Twitter, text messages, and others, since standard Twitter messages are limited to 280 characters, IPAWS WEA messages to 90 characters and standard SMS text messages to 160 characters. (Remember that Hyper-Reach can support longer SMS messages.)
 
Here’s an example of a short message (up to 90 characters) that we have created by using our templates feature:

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