Communications7 Emergency Mass Notification Feature Considerations

Here’s the list of key requirements you need, to ensure stakeholders sign off with confidence when selecting an emergency mass notification system.

An emergency mass notification system has become a must-have item in any critical event management tool-set as organizations grapple with quick and effective communication with staff, suppliers and customers through COVID-19.

Whilst email is great, spam and clutter filters have significantly reduced the ability to rely on delivery, in particular, when time is of the essence in events such as an unfolding COVID-19 cluster outbreak. As such, many organizations have adopted emergency mass notification systems with SMS capability.

Emergency mass notification systems have been adopted on a mass scale, but many platforms leave users struggling with clunky interfaces, data integrity problems and a disconnect from the Crisis Management team.

To select and onboard the right system, here are seven key considerations that should be included in your assessment, before you put your recommendation up for an emergency mass notification system.

1. Simplified User Interface

The user experience of an emergency mass notification system is often considered as a “nice to have, non-functional” requirement. However, when you’re in an event where the stakes are high, having a simple and easy to use interface can be the difference between using the notification system and fumbling your way through.

In a lockdown situation, fumbling is not an option.

If your users find the system too complex, they will disengage and avoid the system altogether, wasting upwards thousands of dollars in procurement and licensing fees. The user interface of the system needs to be clean, intuitive, simple to navigate, and naturally guide the user through the process of notifying stakeholders.

“Think back to the first iPhone you used. You instantly became a smartphone pro without training. This is the level of user experience that works under pressure.”

Emergency mass notification system

This user experience requirement extends to reporting and data analysis. Emergency mass notification systems that make you sift through data to find answers, are not going to cut it.

During a critical event, you need to see visual data that tells the story of where you need to focus your time, attention and limited resources, to resolve the situation or move forward.

In your buying journey, have a look at the system’s user interface (look, feel and operability). If you can’t see what you need straight away, then the system won’t be able to provide you with the answers you need, during a crisis.

Reporting data should update in real-time and provide you with the ability to interact with the dashboard, download and share meaningful data with other stakeholders to help them increase their speed of action.

Ask yourself:
a) Could I navigate this system without training?
b) How are the results of stakeholder responses displayed?

2. Ability to Send, Receive, and Poll Your Audience

During a critical event, sending information is often not enough. A mass SMS notification can be useful in broadcasting rapidly information, but it’s often considered a very blunt object when it comes to focussing resources on what matters.

When communicating in an emergency, having the ability to receive a free text reply or polling response from your audience, will help your team to quickly gather critical information to hone in and focus on the responses that matter most.

Ask yourself: 
a) Can this system send and receive notifications, and allow for audience polling?

3. Simplified Reporting for Status Updates and Corporate Governance

Reporting clearly on status updates becomes critical during an emergency or critical event. In a recent survey undertaken of organizations responding to COVID-19, Board reporting was identified as the most highly engaged stakeholder base when it came to event status reporting.

Being able to provide clear and concise information in an instant for these communication channels is critical. This leads to several critical ingredients for any emergency notification system:

  • Recording of event data such as poll or text results, message delivery results (sent vs received)
  • Production of shareable reports available in a variety of formats (xlms, csv and pdf)
  • Easy to digest data presentation. In a crisis you won’t have time for to format or sift through lines of data for insights.
  • Notifications data that’s timestamped and linked to your Critical Event Dashboard

Ask yourself: 
a) Can I export this or send to other stakeholders in this format?
b) Is this reporting data clear enough for the stakeholder to interpret instantly?
c) Is all send and response information stored centrally for post-incident review or reporting?

4. Ability to Connect to your Corporate Directory

During a critical event, data integrity is paramount. It’s pointless sending a mass notification to 5,000 people, if 1,000 of them are no longer active or have new contact details.

API (application programming interface) connectivity is the key here. The ability to connect your emergency mass notification system to your corporate directory or other contact database will ensure that, as the original source of truth is updated, so too will the data that sits in your system. If the system you’re exploring only allows for a csv file upload, move on.

Ask yourself:
a) Can this system securely connect to our Corporate Directory via API?

5. Connection with your Critical Event Team

Many emergency mass notification systems are disjointed from critical event management platforms and operate standalone.

If you’re using the platform purely for marketing purposes in peacetime, that’s a viable option. If however, you intend to use the system during an emergency or critical event, you should be looking for an emergency mass notification system that allows access to event information from your critical event dashboard.

Combining a critical event dashboard and incident reporting with emergency management notification, allows for a central repository of intelligence on a situation in real-time. This is both critical during an event to ensure response teams are across communication progress and results, as well as after an event when your team needs to undertake incident reporting or a post incident review.

Ask yourself:
a) Is this system connected to a critical event dashboard?
b) Can I easily share and store information from this system in our Critical Event Dashboard to enable centralised intelligence? 

6. Delivery Speed and the Ability to Mitigate Telco Traffic Jams

Unfortunately, during major crisis events, telecommunication providers (aggregators) can often experience their own traffic jams. We’ve seen this first hand during crisis events such as the 2019 Christchurch mosque attacks in New Zealand, as well as the 2020 Australian Bushfire Crisis.

Emergency mass notification systems should not be reliant on one sole aggregator. The system should have a gateway provider in place, that enables messages to go via a variety of aggregators, depending on the level of traffic being experienced or any outage taking place.

This is absolutely critical in life or death situations, such as a lockdown event.

Speed of notification is also critical, particularly when you are putting the system under a heavy load by sending mass messages to more than 10,000 recipients. Undertaking a speed test of the emergency mass notification system is a great way to understand how your system operates under pressure.

Ask yourself:
a) Does this system have the ability to send the same message via multiple telecommunications providers, both locally and abroad?
b) Can the system provide send speed test results from recent load testing?

7. Security and Location of Data

Most emergency mass notification systems live on the cloud. If they don’t, they should. When choosing a system however, it’s important to understand where your data is stored geographically. This helps your organization maintain the standards and policies it sets with regards to privacy.

Ask yourself:
a) Does this system operate from a secure cloud provider such as AWS or Azure?
b) Are we able to store information in a region centric cloud locations such as US, Australia Pacific, Europe etc?

Consider your Functional Requirements

Each organization will obviously have functional requirements that will vary based on specific organizational context.

As such, this is obviously not an exhaustive list, but rather a starting point of key considerations to ensure that the solution you choose, has the ability to stand up effectively when the stakes are high.

iluminr has empowered thousands of users to communicate effectively through crisis situations in real-time, including COVID-19.

To learn more about iluminr’s emergency notification systems, explore our platform today.