Study: Governments should weigh new notification systems

Government entities should evaluate emergency notification systems to determine whether they are reaching an increasingly mobile populace.

That’s one recommendation stemming from a recent CDW Government survey of residents in 20 metro areas. The report states that local governments rely largely on TV and radio to communicate emergency information to the public but noted that people are “increasingly reliant on cell phones and text messaging.”

The survey found that 73 percent of the 1,448 respondents said their local governments relayed emergency information via TV. Fifty-nine percent identified radio as the means of notification. Less used were e-mail and text messaging on cell phones: 10 percent of respondents mentioned e-mail, and 2 percent cited text messaging

CDW-G suggested local governments use a combination of traditional distribution methods and push technologies such as text messaging.

“There is no one-size-fits-all continuity-of-operations strategy,” said Houston Thomas, public safety business development manager at CDW-G. “Local governments should evaluate which mix of traditional and advanced capabilities will reach the most people quickly, regardless of their location and under almost any conceivable circumstance.”

Some organizations have moved to adopt new emergency notification systems. Public and private universities actively pursue the technology. This month, Dickinson College, Stanford University and the University of Kentucky announced notification system deployments.

Kentucky’s UK Alert system, for example, lets those registered for the service receive messages via text messaging, e-mail and pagers, among other means, according to the university. The school purchased its system from Wide Area Rapid Notification.

At the federal level, Input identified nine contracts related to emergency preparedness that have been awarded within the past four years. The Navy and the Commerce and Labor departments were among the entities in the market for emergency notification.

Megan Gamse, manger of Federal Opportunity Products at Input, said there has been “some revamping and increased planning for emergency preparation” in the federal sector.

About the Author

John Moore is a freelance writer based in Syracuse, N.Y.

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