Viewpoints

Increasing emergency communications systems awareness: 7 steps to enhance enrollment via social media

By Phil Conradt

Public alerting systems provide critical information and help emergency management coordinate evacuation of storm-impacted areas. These community-wide, interoperable mass notification systems are critical to the success of disaster response efforts - providing a centralized method to keep the public informed before, during and after a storm or other event. These systems also inform residents of bus or other evacuation schedules, shelter details, insurance information, as well as the resumption of school, business and other services.

Increasing public awareness and enrollment in the notification systems, so all local residents receive alerts and emergency messages, is essential to supporting evacuation efforts in an emergency. In order for these systems to be effective, it is critical to increase the subscriber base in advance of an emergency. Now is the time to get residents prepared and made aware of local resources.

To help increase subscriber enrollment, it is important to:

  • Brand it – The local system should have a name, brand and profile that is easily recognized and remembered.
  • Customize information delivery for residents – Typically, emergency communications systems use multiple platforms (text, email, phone, social media, etc.) to inform residents of local emergencies; these systems need to be coordinated and deliver information in ways that are preferred by individual subscribers.
  • Create a short code – Subscribers can quickly sign up via text (i.e. ALERT to 411911), which is an easy way to promote the lo

Beyond these basic steps, social media can help dramatically extend the reach of regional emergency notification systems. Key tips to increase awareness through social media include:

Create a calendar to provide regular, useful content – Start using social media before the next disaster hits. Create a content calendar with tips to help residents prepare for emergencies. For example, remind your followers to update emergency preparedness kit with flashlights, batteries and water well in advance of seasonal storms.

Enhance engagement with multimedia – Pictures, images, video and other graphics can help advance visibility through Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels. Use these to help residents “see” what’s happening and follow evacuation instructions.

Interact with your followers – Invite residents to post images and respond with disaster preparedness stories or examples, this will not only increase engagement and build personal relationships, but will also enhance your channel visibility beyond your follower base.

Link to other vetted sources of information – Local news stations and newspapers, national weather service and other local and national organizations also provide important and timely information – link to these sources or provide feeds through your system to better establish yourself as a credible source of breaking news.

Keep information brief – Maintain succinct updates and statuses to avoid losing the attention of your followers. Establish repetitive phrases and calls to action to enhance brand identity.

Spread the word at community events – From farmer’s markets to local concerts and other events, increase awareness of public alerting systems in the community through association with social media campaigns to promote the events as well as at the event itself.

Connect with local businesses, organizations and schools – Large employers, local business associations, colleges, schools and other organizations can help extend the reach of the program by including a link to the public alerting system on their websites, intranet sites, message boards and other resources.

With more than 10 years of industry experience, Phil Conradt, product manager for Eaton, is responsible for new product introductions and managing stakeholders for Eaton’s ALERiTY mass notification platform.

 

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