Emergency Alerting and Citizen Advisories continue to be very important in today’s world of live shooters, natural disasters like hurricanes as well as unusual occurrences like outbreaks of viruses that quickly get labeled as pandemics. Here is a 10 point checklist to consider when evaluating such solutions:
1. How fast can an alert be sent and received at full load? Often, delays in sending out and receiving alerts put lives at risk. In December a live shooter was at Virginia tech again and their SMS solution was used to send out the emergency alerts. SMS alerts were still being received 6 days later. The alerts went out instantly but were not received.
2. Who can send the alert? Emergency alerting and advisories are typically sent by the persons with the authority to do so. It is essential to have more than 1 person authorized to do so in case the individual who should send the alert cannot.
3. Can an alert be sent remotely? An emergency in a building or at a facility may force individuals who are required to send the alerts to activate them remotely. Does the solution in question support this?
4. Can system notify masses quickly? An emergency alerting system may reach some of the population as registered in a database but not all. It is essential to ensure that multiple pathways can reach individuals in an emergency. This is why solution that provide broadcast alerts without user addressing information are better at reaching the masses.
5. Can several alerting pathways be used? Some solutions support 1 or 2 methods such as SMS or email for example. It is essential to pick a solution that can support multiple pathways such as WiFi broadcasts, SMS, Email or Voice.
6. Does system require /support self-registration? Can it broadcast? Most solutions require users to be registered in a database. Very often users do not want to self-register and some system support LDAP integration for getting user names, email addresses and phone numbers. Rare systems support broadcasts over WiFi hotspots and avoid self registration altogether.
7. Is system redundant and fault tolerant? What occurs when the power fails? Does the system continue working or fail? If an unexpected event occurs with system software, does the solution fail?
8. Can system target sub-groups: geographic, zip code, building?Many systems alert or broadcast to entire lists without supporting sub-groups or partial lists. This is important when 1 out of 30 buildings on a campus is affected or 1 floor out of a tower has to be evacuated quickly.
9. Can system support 2-way so that people can be tracked? In a live shooter situation, it is very important to get as much tactical information for the first responders as possible. Rare systems support 2-way communication or a back channel to command central that provides valuable information about the movement of individuals in an emergency.
10. Can system be hacked? Is it secure and supports authentication? Authentication and secure access for sending out alerts is also a key feature for solutions that alert. Spammers and hackers would love to get access to these solutions. ….Dr. Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO Amika Mobile