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

Testing, Testing: Why it’s Critical to Test Your Emergency Alert System

Posted by Nina Caliri - Thursday, June, 21 2018

Do you have formalized, regularly scheduled standards in place for testing the reliability of your emergency alert system? If not, you should put testing guidelines in place to avoid vital mistakes caused by faulty or inadequate systems.


An example of possible consequences? The now-infamous incident in Hawaii earlier this year when a slow emergency alert system failed to immediately retract outgoing alerts (caused by a staffer accidentally plugging in a training tape) warning residents about an impending ballistic missile threat.

Though public safety officials tried to reverse the emergency alert 38 minutes after it was issued, the reversal didn’t take effect right away and much panic had ensued - citizens already on edge over ongoing national tensions with North Korea flocked to shelters and clogged highways to try to protect themselves.

“The false alert was a stark reminder of what happens when the old realities of the nuclear age collide with the speed — and the potential for error — inherent in the internet age,” notes Adam Nagourney in the New York Times.

To ensure your own emergency alert systems are working to their full capacity without technical glitches, consider the following recommendations for best practices.

  • Ensure your employees receive regular training on using and maintaining your emergency alert system, including instructions on how to reverse warnings.
  • Consider testing your system daily or even on a per-shift basis by simply sending test alerts to a friend, family member, or small group of colleagues.
  • Switch up testing procedures as a checkup on different communication channels — text, phone calls, social media, etc.
  • Establish a monthly exercise whereby your operators are challenged to create appropriate notifications for different emergency scenarios. Use results as talking points for the complexities and parameters involved with potential notifications. “This is a good time to test both a user’s knowledge of the system, and their understanding of standard operating procedures and protocols,” notes Rick Wimberly on Govtech.com.
  • When possible, conduct a full-out test that’s sent out to a manageable portion of your residents at least twice a year. Make sure you notify the recipients of the pending procedure well ahead of time, with frequent use of the phrase, “This is a test,” before and during. Then ask users for feedback.

When you choose SwiftReach’s Swift911 emergency alert system for your municipality or organization, users can choose whether they prefer to be alerted via voice, text, email, social media, RSS and/or IPAWS. And our mobile app allows for emergency alerts to be created and launched right from your smartphone!