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Best Practices, Tips, Tricks and Strategies for Effective Emergency Management

Is Your Emergency Alert System Reliable?

Posted by Philip Young - Wednesday, January, 16 2019

Reliability, by definition, is known as the quality of being trustworthy or of performing consistently well. There are a lot of instances of which you expect reliability, one of them being your emergency alert system. Citizens rely on their local governments to be able to inform them of impending disasters, amber alerts, or simply road closures.Is Your Emergency Alert System Reliable Button

A large number of catastrophes swept across the United States over the past few years including, disastrous hurricanes and wildfires, and unfortunately, many mass shootings. We’ve learned a lot from these events in the emergency management field, including the importance of having an effective and dependable emergency alert system.

Notable Emergency Alert System Problems

Canadian Countrywide Public Alert System

A countrywide emergency alert system was set to debut in Canada last May, but left many residents in Quebec and Ontario never received any alerts. These tests were conducted after the CRTC ordered wireless providers to implement a system to warn of imminent safety concerns such as tornadoes, floods, amber alerts, or terror threats.

After research was done to determine where the problem with the alert system began, it was found that it did not originate with cellphone service providers. Rather, the problem occurred between emergency management in Quebec and the company that operates the emergency alert system, Pelmorex Corp. According to CBC News, “a code sequence that was entered manually by a Pelmorex employee, a space was included incorrectly, which prevented the system from sending the message in Quebec through wireless phones.”

Delayed Emergency Alerts in California Wildfires

California saw what is considered the deadliest wildfires in history, which killed many and destroyed countless homes.  After evacuations were taking place, many wondered why it took so long for emergency alerts to go out. "They definitely didn't do enough," said Christina Taft, whose 67-year-old mother had been missing since the fire. "She didn't expect it to be that bad. She expected someone would be calling, or something, if it got bad. But they didn't."

In such a chaotic situation Butte County Sheriff Honea stressed that the fire’s unusually swift progress south and west into Magalia, Paradise and other mountain communities made timely notification difficult. Getting messages out while trying to coordinate evacuations and emergency response personnel appeared not to be the key priority, when it probably should have been.

The Infamous Hawaiian Missile Crisis

If you haven’t heard of this emergency alert system blunder, then we don’t know where you’ve been! In January 2018, “the residents of Hawaii spent an agonizing 38 minutes believing they were about to be the victims of a missile attack.” An unfortunate emergency alert was sent out to Hawaiian residents, and they were not notified of the mass emergency notification being an error for almost 40 minutes.

Officials explained that the alert was released because “an employee pushed the wrong button.” Many were left to question the accuracy of their state’s emergency alert system.

What Makes an Emergency Alert System Reliable?

When it comes to ensuring that your emergency alert system is reliable, consider the following:

  • How Secure is Your Network?
    Having a secure network is vital to the success of your emergency alert system. You want to ensure that all of your alerts are delivered on time, and sent to the right people. SwiftReach believes the key to a successful emergency alert system begins and ends with the type of network used to deliver the message. All of SwiftReach’s emergency alerting tools are backed by the SwiftReach NDN (Notification Delivery Network) and is the only emergency notification provider that owns and operates its own telephony network.
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  • Is Your Emergency Alert System Integrated with IPAWS?
    IPAWS was designed to help create and distribute emergency notifications through all the nations’ alert and warning channels. SwiftReach is an IPAWS Integrated-approved system, allowing users to access the United States’ available emergency alert channels, including the Emergency Alert System (EAS), Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and more.

  • Are Your People Trained & is Your System Tested?
    Training your employees on how to use your emergency alert system and testing your system regularly go hand-in-hand. Learning from others mistakes and blunders, it’s clear that training and testing are both very important for local government officials. You must ensure that your employees receive regular trainings on maintaining your emergency alert system, including instructions on how to reverse warnings. Testing your system regularly could also be helpful to guarantee that the system is working properly.

  • Does the Emergency Alert System You Chose Have High Success?
    When choosing your emergency alert system, consider checking out the system’s success stories and customer reviews. If you see none, that may be a concern. SwiftReach is used by thousands of municipalities across the country, and there are many happy customers.

A reliable emergency alert system can save lives. It’s crucial to avoid the mishaps from others by trusting that you have a strong notification system.

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