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Transforming A Ho-Hum Mass Notification Service Into A Powerhouse Collaboration Tool
Author: Lorin Bristow, SendWordNow
In times past, mass notification technology was used primarily as a one-way means of alerting people in urgent situations. Its origins were rooted in replacing manual phone trees (you call five people, they each call five people, etc.). With the addition of mapping and greater call capacities, the use spread to alerting the public at large.
Today’s mass notification systems are no doubt still highly effective for warning people during emergencies and critical events. However, they are no longer relegated exclusively to getting people’s attention. With advancements in capabilities, they are fast becoming tools for both alerting and collaborating - for both warning people that a problem exists, and aiding in the problem’s resolution.
If you still think mass notification is only a means of sounding an alarm, you might want to take a closer look at the benefits of today’s modern alerting services. Here are a few capabilities that, when used regularly, can transform your basic notification service into a powerful tool for collaboration.
Mobile Tools - Emergencies don’t punch a time clock; emergency managers or first responders aren’t always at their desk when a critical event occurs. As such, leading mass notification services have added tools to their portfolios that help mobile professionals interact effectively, rapidly and securely. When evaluating notification services, look for mobile app offerings that allow administrators to control and initiate alerts, as well as apps designed specifically for alert recipients.
End-to-End Internet Protocol (IP) - Speaking of mobile communication tools, capabilities shouldn’t be limited only to email, telephone networks or SMS gateways. The mobile collaboration component of the alerting service should use wireless and/or data networks for transmission of data and be built on Internet Protocol (IP) end-to-end. Among the numerous benefits, such a solution provides yet another modality for communicating (important for increasing your odds of reaching people during a disruptive event), and it allows for secure communications as it utilizes encryption when passing data packets back and forth.
File Sharing/Attaching - Consider, too, solutions that allow alert senders to attach files that might be useful for decision making. Checklists, individual assignments, maps, etc. can all be discussed more easily when delivered in tandem with the notification, as opposed to sending them separately or waiting for everyone to access their own library of resources. Also look for a solution that offers a “lockbox” for its mobile app, which allows administrators to place version-controlled digital files within a secure location on the mobile device.
“Reverse” Conference Calling - Conference calling is still the most preferred method for collaborating with a team of people. However, setting up meetings, remembering dial-in numbers, entering lengthy meeting ID codes, etc. all make the process slow and painful. This is why the reverse conference calling feature of a top mass notification system can be a valuable aid to collaboration. Simply launch a notification to your desired participants and have the system call everyone at once for you. When they answer, they can transfer into a conference bridge with the touch of a single button--no dial-in numbers or PIN codes required.
Two-Way Interactions and Situational Awareness - When collaborating with others in response to an urgent situation, it’s important to be armed with information on the scope of the problem. Leading notification services can help provide situational awareness through the use of large-scale, two-way interactions. For example, notifications can be sent to a large audience of recipients. The alert can also include a polling question to which recipients can respond via any device. Recipient responses are captured in real-time online reports and are available for analysis. This interaction helps a response team understand the current situation better, which translates into better decisions.
Further, notifications can escalate if the desired number of responses is not reached. For example, if a situation calls for five Hazmat team members, and only three indicate they are available to respond, the system can escalate to other groups of people (e.g., off-duty or backups) to fill the other two positions.
Mass notification technology can be used for higher purposes than simply sounding a warning bell. With proper preparation and knowledge, it can be a powerful tool for highly effective collaboration.
Lorin Bristow has more than twenty years of experience leading top technology companies in marketing, product management, strategic planning, and operations. For the past decade, Bristow has helped drive the growth of leading mass notification and public safety technology providers. Currently, Bristow serves as Senior Vice President, Marketing for Send Word Now. Previously, he served as a senior consultant to the FEMA Integrated Public Alerts and Warnings (IPAWS) program, and the affiliated Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) initiative. He is a frequent author and speaker on emergency notification, and has co-authored a widely-followed blog on alerts and warnings. Bristow is also a Senior Fellow for the Center for Digital Government, and a U.S. patent holder for a mobile notification technology.
Modified for 9-1-1 Magazine from a blog posted in the Send Word Now Company Blog newsletter; courtesy of Send Word Now. For more information, see www.sendwordnow.com/